Your Mind

I Am So Glad I Am A College Basketball Fan

By January 30, 2016 0
blue-basketball-american-basket

When I first started looking at colleges, I wanted absolutely everything except what my parents wanted (you can check out this truism up-close-and-personal in mine and my mother’s wedding planning blogument). My parents wanted me to go to UConn, just like my Daddy did. I wanted, well, like I said, absolutely anything but UConn.

My parents tried to appeal to my sporty side, which was unfortunate, because I didn’t really have one at the time. All my life, I had been forced to participate in sports, and my flat feet, short stature, and lack of lung capacity definitely did not take kindly to any sort of attempts at athletic prowess. So when they said, “Don’t you want to go to a school that has a following? That’s got a great sports team to root for?” my instinctual reaction was, “No. No, I don’t.”

Later, when I fell in love with Quinnipiac College after the parents begrudgingly spent a Saturday afternoon following their wide-eyed, eager, hopelessly rebellious daughter around an endlessly idyllic campus tour, the answer was more like, “Yes, yes I do. And Quinnipiac is pretty good at hockey. I like hockey.”

“Jess, you’ve never watched hockey.”

“There’s a first time for everything.”

Moral of the story: I ended up going to UConn, and my personal finance department thanks the stubborn teenaged version of myself every day. But the real reason I’m thankful for having attended New England’s premier public university is not the wallet, or the education, or the friends I made, or the future husband I met.

It’s right now. It’s this RIGHT NOW. I’m writing this as UConn is battling Cincinnati, those insert-derogatory-name-here’s. There’s 15 seconds left in the 2nd half and its 57-55, UConn is up, and it’s a time out, but Cinci’s ball, and good God in heaven –

See what I mean here. These boys, these boys who are all now younger than me (because I am old) are battling for… pride, for school, for each other, for –

Oh God.

Fucking tied, and a foul, and Cinci is shooting. 12 seconds left. Cinci will shoot free throws and UConn will get the ball back with 12 seconds to win, or tie, the game.

Breathe.

MADE FREE THROW. Cinci, that is.

UCONN TIME OUT. They got the ball across court, and called it. And here we go, 10.2 seconds left, down by one point after battling it out all gosh darn game…

Where was I. Sorry. This is a 30 second time out so I should be able to get some good, sane thoughts into words here…

Speechless. Nope. I can’t. I got nothing. Literally a hole in my throat where my vocal chords should be. These boys need to effing win. They need to pull out the win.

Missed shot!

Fucking. Shit.

We lost.

One. Point.

And you look back and you think, “Oh, the fouls, they didn’t call that foul, they should have called the foul!”

My heart is still pumping too fast for me to form words, but I’ll try it any way, with the bitter taste of loss in my mouth: College basketball is just about the best drug there is out there.

Like I was saying before, these boys, these young, young boys, often from neighborhoods or cities they’ve been desperately trying to get out of since they were 5, 6, 7 years old, these boys come out on the court and they absolutely bleed for their school. They leap, they rebound, they pass, they dive, they give it their all every single game. And when it’s not a game, it’s one of two daily practices, and when it’s not a practice, it’s late at night, desperately studying for the midterm they have to take and pass tomorrow, because otherwise, they’ll knock the team’s GPA off the eligibility list for NCAA play (yeah, ask any UConn fan about THAT one).

I may be biased because I dated and am marrying an NCCA Division 1 athlete, but the age and the dedication of these players never ceases to amaze me. In 2014, Shabazz Napier, famed UConn guard whom we Huskies miss and admire dearly, after helping his team claim the NCAA Championship title (#LoneStarStatement), came out and told the press that most nights in college, he went to bed “starving.” And most articles highlight the fact that it’s because he “can’t afford food,” but it’s much more than merely a socioeconomic barrier: What it really comes down to is the simple fact that playing sports in college is not convenient. Most dining halls at UConn close before classes are even out of session for the day, let alone practices for athletes or job shifts for student workers. The one or two that remain open have only cereal and a shitty pasta bar to offer, and beyond those options, if you don’t get there in time and get your fill for the evening, then yes, you’re looking at spending a pretty penny at over-priced college town food that is, let’s be honest, probably not the best fuel for training to win a fucking NCAA National Championship, be it in soccer, volleyball, cross country, or yes, basketball.

At the end of the day, I have to hand it to my parents on this one: I am so glad I went to a school with a riotous, car-flipping, couch-burning, street-partying sports following. I am proud to call myself a fan of college basketball, and not just of my Huskies, either, but of any team. The work, the dedication, and the endless effort so many of those kids put in both on and off the court is completely dazzling. I spent my college career eating Trix (they’re for kids) straight from the box and watching Law and Order: SVU on my broken-down futon. These kids went out and chased a dream, and many of them won’t make it beyond these glory days—many won’t play the sport ever again once they graduate (or don’t) with (or without) that degree in hand.

Next time you’re at a bar, order a beer, and sit down next to that crazy, fanatical college basketball fan that is probably at least twice the age of the guys playing on the court. Feed of his passion, his heartbreak, and tune in to the kids he’s rooting for. There is something absolutely special about the college basketball game, something that you do not find in the mindless prattling of NBA millionaires on Twitter. There are highs, and there are lows. I just gave you insight to a brutal, Thursday night low.

Now, imagine how awesome the highs must be.

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