March Madness

Jayhawk in Seattle




There you go.  You now know my affiliation, and there’s nothing to be done about it.  If you’ve been a long-time reader of this site, you may recall that I am from Lawrence, KS, a strange little liberal island in the midst of an evolution-denying state that just so happens to also be the home of Kansas University, a college that most of the country ignores for eleven months out of the year.

And then comes March.

Any serious follower of college basketball has likely heard some Kansas fan claim that we invented the sport.  It’s not exactly true, but there is the nectar of truth in the claim.  You see, the inventor of the game, Dr. James Naismith, was the first coach of the Kansas University basketball team, though he actually created the game while working for a YMCA in Massachusett.  No, KU was not the birthplace of the sport, but as our first (and worst) coach was the inventor of the game we do have a tangential claim to Firsties.

Does it really matter?  Or course not.

If you’re a fan of North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky, Duke or whoever, you undoubtedly believe your university’s history of basketball success represents an undeniable mark of quality and stature.  I suppose it does.

But history only matters as far back as the beginning of the current season.

Born and raised in Lawrence,  I grew up driving down Naismith drive.  I was a little boy when I saw my first college basketball game from the hallowed rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.  As I was four-years-old, I don’t remember our National Championship team in 1988, led by Danny Manning, but I do remember royally unnerving my SoCal roommate in 2008 when I celebrated like a madman as Mario Chalmers made the 3-pointer to send us into overtime in a championship game victory over Memphis.

I stopped watching professional baseball after the mid-90s strike (it didn’t help that Bo Jackson had retired).  I have never watched or cared about football.  I can’t work myself up to pay attention to professional basketball (though, I enjoy when a former Jayhawk succeeds in the pros).  Sports in general bore me.  Golf, hockey, water polo: whatever.  I don’t give a shit.

But college basketball, to me, is still an unadulterated display of athleticism without the unnecessary baggage of endorsements and million dollar contracts.

I grew up with two religions:  Christianity and KU Basketball.  I only believe in one, now.

If the Jayhawks lose a game, you better give me at least an hour before talking to me (unless you’re a pretty girl; there’s no statute of limitations on a pretty face).

In a year like this, though, when a team that most people had written off as second-runs manages to make it to the Final Four, there really isn’t anything that can sour me on my team.  Yes, I want them to get to the championship and yes, I want them to win it all.  I believe they have the talent, the tenacity and, most importantly, the coach to lead them to a championship.  But, after a year like this, even if KU’s run ends next Saturday night, this season will be one of the most memorable and celebrated of the many exalted seasons this university has had.

Thanks in large part to Thomas Robinson.

I’m a guy who listens to Krzysztof Penderecki, has never seen a Michael Bay movie in theaters and would rather read a biology textbook than Sports Illustrated.  In other words, I’m not your stereotypical beer-swigging sports fan (for one, I swig whiskey).  But when the Kansas Jayhawks are playing basketball, I’ll be in the bar pounding my fists and cheering our victory like your drunk uncle, and I feel no shame in it.

Mizzou, Kansas State, Duke, North Carolina:  All hated rivals, all teams that went out early this year.

Kansas is in the Final Four, and for this born and bred Jayhawk that’s a good feeling, indeed.