By Heather Nelson
(Published April 4, 2016)
It’s been a week since the Kansas men’s basketball team broke my heart in the Elite 8. Somehow, I knew going to watch the game against Villanova in a public place was a bad omen. I still did it.
In Omaha there aren’t many Jayhawk fans. Most people don’t care much about college basketball, but the ones that do are Creighton fans. (I wonder if those fans were cheering against their conference that night?) So, I stood out at the Buffalo Wild Wings bar. I wore my jersey, Jayhawk Zubaz leggings and tied my “lucky” Kansas sweatshirt around my waist. The restaurant manager joked with me about my team loyalty. (He asked me, “Why Kansas?”, but assured me he wanted them to win it all “for his bracket.”)
I ordered a Cold Snap — maybe that’s where I went wrong — and settled in for the game. Some guys in the back of the bar area mimicked my chants and cheers, but I just waved at them, as if I wasn’t extremely annoyed by their antics. The first half couldn’t have gone much worse. Villanova was dominating, and Kansas couldn’t drain any 3-pointers. It was like I had predicted, “live by the three, die by the three.” But I still had faith.
My prayers went unanswered.
Slowly the game started to slip through Kansas’ fingers. I prayed to James Naismith — the obvious god of basketball — to “please give us a win.” It didn’t work. Kansas lost. I ordered three shots — two Fireball and a Rumchata. I cried. And then, drunk-me realized that the world would be OK.
Of course, I’m still bitter that the Jayhawks lost. I wanted to see this spectacular season complete with a NCAA title win. This team had accomplished so much this year that far exceeded my expectations. Maybe that’s where I got greedy — where most Kansas fans got greedy. We started to really enjoy success. This team earned the University Games gold medal, which was a win against Germany. This team won the Maui Invitational. This team clinched its 12th straight conference title and won the Big 12 conference championship. And finally, this team advanced to the Elite 8.
Bill Self’s Jayhawks gave fans so much to root for this year. Guys like Wayne Selden and Frank Mason, who’ve worked hard to earn starting spots on the team, dominated play. Perry Ellis finished a great senior season.
I saw reports last week saying that Self was to blame for a “disappointing” season. I think it was quite the opposite. Would Self earn coaching honors if he was dragging his team down? No.
Basically, after a week to let that Elite 8 loss soak in, I’m OK.
Spring is often equated to new beginnings. Almost perfectly, — for me at least — baseball season just began. As one season ends, another begins. I won’t be watching the national championship game — mostly because there’s no “lesser of the two evils” in this scenario. My attention has turned to baseball from now until October. College basketball will be waiting for me, then.
Funny how sports break our hearts, but also mend them.