Monday, March 21, 2011

Basketball Bliss

I wrote about my lifelong relationship with the men's college basketball tournament last week. The first weekend of the tournament has always been one of my favorite weekends of the year. The upsets, the buzzer beaters, there's really nothing else like it in all of sports.

Wisconsin was never good enough to make the tournament during my time in Madison. The basketball program finally got its act together a few years after I graduated, and now you can pretty much bank on the Badgers being in the field of 64, I mean 65, I mean 68. The Badgers started this year's tournament in Tucson, so for the first time, I was able to cheer them on in person as they battled for a spot in the Sweet 16.

I wanted to bring the girls, but they had dancing commitments for St. Pat's. I talked a friend into going to Thursday's opening game, and instead of sitting in the nosebleed seats we paid for, we easily found empty seats near the court. A lot of the experts had Belmont upsetting Wisconsin, but the Badgers pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win.

I thought about bringing the girls to Saturday's game, but the tickets were just too expensive. My buddy didn't want to pony up another $80, so I went solo. I caught the end of the San Diego State/Temple game, a double overtime barnburner. After seeing how things worked on Thursday, I figured a good chunk of the San Diego State fans would clear out after their game. That's exactly what happened, and I wound up sitting in the front row, center court. It was like a basketball dream come true. The Badgers overcame a late six point deficit to win an extremely hard-fought game. They're moving on to the Sweet 16 in New Orleans, and the Final Four is a real possibility now.

The game was brilliant, but the best part of the whole experience came after the game. The full moon was out; it was a beautiful, balmy Arizona night. I called my brother and a couple buddies to talk about the game as I waited with a small crowd of the Wisconsin faithful to congratulate the team as they boarded their bus. I took some pictures of Coach Ryan and the guys, and I even got Jordan Taylor to pose for a quick picture with me. I told him I was an alum, teaching 8th grade right down the street, and that my students would be very impressed that I got a picture with him. He graciously listened to me ramble and actually thanked me when I told him he made a great block at the end of the game to seal the victory. I walked away very proud to be a Badger. ON WISCONSIN!


  1. The Final Four is here in Houston. Although none of the teams that I like will be there.

  2. Thanks, now I've got On Wisconsin stuck in my head.

  3. I don't understand basketball as I am sure many don't understand cricket.

    What a great young man Jordan Taylor is. I love it when they are humble. You look like you had a great time judging from your smile.

  4. Front row, center court - can't ask for much more than that. I love this time of year. My daughter's middle school team just one the Rhode Island CAL (Catholic Athletic League) Div. 1 championship, and we're headed to NH next weekend for the regionals. Woohoo! Who knows, some day she may be on a college court. That would be way cool. Hope she sticks w/it. I love the game. :)
    (Great photo!)

  5. OT: Well, I'd love to see my Badgers in Houston.

    Munk: Sorry about that.

    Nubian: Are you a cricket fan? You could probably educate us on your blog. Humble is a great word to describe Jordan. I was very impressed with him.

    Jayne: Must be pretty exciting, and nerve-wracking, to watch your daughter have success like that.

  6. I see you're going to do the April Challenge. Same here! Your beloved Badgers sound like my husband's alma mater team, the SIU Salukis. They've actually made it to the 16 before, and it really gave us a thrill to see them make it so far. We watched them play Indiana years ago when Larry Bird was on that team. Not too attractive but great player. Wishing your team a win!

  7. My husband lives for March Madness! Not me; but even I'll probably sit and watch when Richmond, Virginia's own VCU Rams and UofR Spiders play for that next spot on the tournament chart (or whatever it's called). The city's ablaze with excitement.

    Glad you're having so much fun watching, too!

  8. That's pretty awesome. I thought about checking out some of the games in Chicago here but ended up just watching them from my couch even though the United Center is like 20 minutes from my place. I'm pulling you guys, mostly because you're the only Big 10 team besides Ohio St. still going.