Archive for Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Championships come with road trips

April 16, 2008

In retrospect, I should have known that the Kansas Jayhawks would win the 2008 NCAA basketball championship. Way back in 1988, I was in a unique situation and the Jayhawks won the championship. Again this year, I was watching the game under somewhat unusual circumstances and, yes, KU came back to win a national title.

On the other hand, in 2003 I was sitting very comfortably in my recliner enjoying a nice array of snacks when Kansas fell to Syracuse by three points. I guess that I have to be doing something different when watching a Final Four game if KU is to win.

Let me explain: this year Jean and I took a spring vacation trip, which started in Allen, Texas, where our youngest granddaughter was confirmed on the Sunday following Easter. It was there that I got to watch KU defeat Villanova and Davidson. We moved on through New Mexico and found ourselves in a motel room in Santa Fe as the Hawks moved into the championship with a win over North Carolina. We rounded out the trip in Copeland, and viewed the finals at the home of Jean's brother.

Outside of western Kansas, the only real support we saw for the Jayhawks was in Allen, where one of our daughter's neighbors is a KU grad and a big fan. There was a KU flag flying on game day. Just listening to people it seems that much of the Lone Star state lost interest in the tournament when Texas lost to Memphis State.

In New Mexico, I found absolutely no fan support for the Jayhawks. In fact, if you read the local newspapers you would have thought KU had virtually no chance. I heard one TV show caller pose a question. "If Kansas, which has a small population, can be a big time power in basketball, why can't New Mexico?" The answer seemed simple to me: 100-plus years of tradition.

Two decades ago, in 1988, I had a much different time watching the championship game. At that time, there was a pretty bitter fight going on concerning closings of schools. The vote on the matter was scheduled at a school board meeting on the Monday of the championship game and I really thought there was no way that I'd make it home in time to see anything. It so happens that a compromise agreement was negotiated by a committee of parents and board members. At the meeting, the compromise was presented and quickly approved and the meeting ended just before 9 p.m., in time to watch the second half - the classic win by "Danny and the Miracles" over Oklahoma.

At that time, the Bonner Springs City Council also met on Monday night and someone pasted Jayhawks all over the clock and made a sign pointing out that the meeting was to end before 8 p.m. Since they didn't have much business, the meeting was adjourned and folks made it home in time for the game.

You've got to be a senior citizen to remember the first KU NCAA championship way back in 1952. I was a freshman in high school and since my family didn't own a TV set, I had to listen to the game on the radio. I suspect that most of the people who remember that first championship had to enjoy it on radio since television wasn't big in this part of the world in 1951. I also remember how sad area cage fans were the following year when KU lost to Indiana in the finals. By 1957, television was definitely in the area and as a college student at Ottawa University I remember watching KU lose to North Carolina in three overtimes.

Despite being several hundred miles from home, modern communications kept me in touch with family members during the games. I exchanged cell phone calls with my sister in Houston, and grandsons in Bonner Springs. Modern communications are wonderful.

Probably the saddest story I heard was about a local KU fan who was attending a conference out of town. He was at a banquet on Saturday night and missed the game. He was on a plane returning to KC on Monday night when the Jayhawks wrapped up the title. Yet, he wasn't completely out of the loop, since he received text messages about the game's progress.

Yes, I'm glad that the Jayhawks won the title. Thanks to modern communications I can watch the game wherever I am and thanks to cell phones, discuss it with family members hundreds of miles away. However, if KU, or, for that matter, Kansas State, ever reaches the Final Four again, I will try to be in some unique situation which might ensure a national title.

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