4.09.2008

why this is such a big deal

I've been thinking a lot about why KU's win of the National Championship title is such a huge deal to me. I mean, any Jayhawk fan reads that, rolls their eyes and says, 'Duh'. But quite a few of the people in my life aren't KU fans, hell, they're not even basketball fans. Some of them, gods forbid, aren't even sports fans. All that to say, that many of my friends get this glazed look in their eyes when I start going on and on about how awesome it is that we won the game that means everything in the world. And, honestly, it's really difficult for me to explain.

How do you talk about what it means to go to a school like KU that has such a rich basketball tradition? Shit. We basically started the sport. Except for this past year, our football team has pretty much always been on the bottom rung in whatever conference we currently reside, so all we really had was basketball. Luckily, our basketball team has pretty much always been at the top of the echelon. And not just in our conference, but in the nation. We had good reason to cheer for them. Are there people who attend KU who could give a shit about our basketball team? Yeah. Although I will never understand the world they inhabit. Our stellar basketball team gives us a reason to be proud of our school. Yes, we have outstanding academic programs also, but the guy in New York couldn't care less about our Number One ranked Journalism school, instead, he sees a KU hat and thinks, 'Oh yeah. I know them. They have a great basketball team.' Not that anyone should really care so much about what the guy in New York thinks, but it's a pretty good feeling when strangers walk up to you and say, 'Hey congrats on winning the Championship.' Just because you're wearing your KU sweatshirt. I guess it gives you a little less anonymity.

So, there's that, but there's also the fact that this year, we beat Roy Williams to get to the championship game. And then won there. We won there. A place that Roy Williams was never able to get to with KU even though he was the hope of the Jayhawk Nation for fifteen years. For a school that prides itself on its fantastic basketball program the NCAA tournament is a very important contest. And to not be able to win the crown for 20 years is a pretty big slap in the face. So, you can see why we care that much that Aw Shucks Roy was unable to perform. And then he betrayed us, went to North Carolina and won the very next year. Regardless of the fact that it was with a team he didn't recruit, it still stung. A lot. There are a lot of fans who think that Roy made the right decision, and, I guess, if you're able to stand in his shoes for a minute, you can see that yeah, it was what anyone in that same position would've done. Hell, the opportunity to coach for his alma mater and the team that started his career? A team that was offering him a shitton of money? Yeah. He did what any of us would've done. But the reason that I will always hate him for it, is that he lied to us about it. Two weeks before he announced his decision to leave, he told the faithful that he was at KU to stay for the rest of his career, and then left without any apology or looking back. And, then to see him sitting in the stands during the game on Monday night with a Jayhawk on his shirt? Yeah. He lost the right to wear the Jayhawk the second he decided to leave Lawrence.

For me at least, our win against him on Saturday was far more important than winning the championship. Don't get me wrong, it was fantastically awesome to win against Memphis and take it all, but man, oh man, kicking Roy's ass felt far more satisfying.

There are a ton of rumors going around about Bill Self getting offers from Oklahoma State, his alma mater, and whether he is going to leave or not. I don't think he will. He has the best team in the country returning next year. For the most part any way. Yeah, he's losing his seniors. And Brandon Rush is going to the NBA, but still. The majority of the players who won the championship are coming back. And it would be just plain silly to leave a program like KU's where recruiting is going to be mighty easy for the next few years to go to OKSt who hasn't really been good at basketball for a few thousand years. Plus, I bet KU offers him a lot more money now. But hey. If he wants to leave, I don't think I'll hold a grudge like I did with Roy. He did his job. He was successful. And, so far, he hasn't made any promises he can't keep.

8 comments:

The [Cherry] Ride said...

Are we still talking about this?

tina f. said...

Well said!

I have been thinking a lot about it too - I watched highlights of the UNC game tonight in fact.

And much to chagrin of folks who aren't Jayhawks, those of us from KU will be talking about this until we win the next championship and long after that.

Every basketball fan in Kansan still gets a surge of pride and a smile on their face when they SEE Danny Manning. Just the sight of him makes us proud. It is hard to put into words the pride we have in our basketball team. But I think it is for a reason very difficult to understand if you have not lived in Kansas or spent any time in Lawrence.

I will try to be brief(ish). Lawrence was founded as an abolitionist town. Jayhawk is a nickname given to those who fought on the side of freedom, for a Free State against slavery in the civil war. As you come into town there is a statue with a quote from the poet and Lawrence native Langston Hughes: "The future is bright before us like a flame." A reference to the burning of Lawrence to the ground during the Quantrail's Raid.

So - Lawrence is a city with a great story. Somehow - it's still not clear to me now - all of that has been wrapped up into a symbol everyone can easily recognize - KU basketball. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. It's true to me anyway. And KU fans think their team and, in fact, they, are different because of it.

I was just as proud of the fact that there was almost no violence and no vandalism and no arrests in the insane victory celebration after the game as I was that we won the championship to begin with. I knew there wouldn't be. And that comes, I think, from how much we love that town - and again - how much that has been kind of mushed together with the basketball team.

It's not all that odd when you think about it I guess. You think of how the baseball teams in New York used to be - one for each borough - and the people of those neighborhoods saw themselves in those teams and put their love of the place they lived into their fanship.

So that is a huge part of it for me and for a lot of KU fans I think.

And it is a huge reason our championship is different than one for a team like Florida or another school without as much basketball tradition or from a larger city than Lawrence, I think. And it is a big reason why people who may be sports fans but are not KU fans don't understand why just keep talking about this and why we will continue to -- well, forever.

e. said...

wow. you guys. I love you. but you might be venturing upon win-crazy. I guess it has only been a couple of days. the win is still fresh. and you've probably been smiling ever since.

am glad you have each other to never-stop-talking-about-this with. maybe it has something to do with the fact that you are the Kansas Diaspora now.

Mark said...

I grew up in basketball-fevered Indiana and went reading to see if my home state was perhaps more important than Kansas in the history of basketball... Nope, it looks like we peaked with the movie Hoosiers.

But Kansas is muy importante... James Naismith founded basketball in a YMCA in Massachusetts and then went on to coach the first college team at KU. A whole lot of his original players started other college teams. So... yeah. KU did start college basketball. Sweet.

I'm thinking I could have been a lifelong b-ball fan if only I didn't have such a distaste for the jacka**ery of Bobby Knight in the 80's. Most of my basketball was limited to asphalt playgrounds and chain-link nets and really didn't involve a television.

All b-ball history from Wikipedia on Basketball

tina f. said...

I think of Indiana as a total brother -in-arms as far as Midwestern Basketball States.

And E (Hi!) - we aren't really all that crazy as far as KU fans go - seriously. My boss (I am in Chicago) had a check up with his doctor this morning his doctor is a KU alum. The first thing my boss said to me when he got in today was "Are ALL of you like this?" and then described to me the total insanity that was every word out of
his doctor's mouth this morning about the Championship.

And my boss was like - that was Monday, right? And the doctor said "Yeah, but I haven't talked to YOU since then."

If you go to youtube and type KU National Championship in - you get hundreds of videos of people celebrating on Monday and they have been viewed by thousands of people each in just the last few days. New ones are going up every hour it seems.

It's not just us.

d said...

cherry: settle in. we'll be talking about it for a long, long time.

mark: what tina said. i do however, disagree a bit with your feelings on b knight. yes, oh yes, he was an ass of a human being, but man, oh man, was he an effective coach. he is indeed the winningest coach of all time.

Michael5000 said...

I'm just annoyed that they weren't able to pull it off while I was attending, so that I could have kissed pretty strangers in the exciting atmosphere of exhuberance and licence that pervades big street parties after such things.

KU retains a lot of the be-true-to-yer-school thing that most colleges shook off when returning WWII combat veterans on the GI Bill weren't keen on old-fashioned 'varsity' culture. (You can imagine 4F frat boys trying to haze the incoming class of Freshman in 1946.) When I graduated from KU, at some point everybody in the stadium linked arms and started singing the school song. The fucking school song! And everybody except me seemed to know the words! Damnedest thing I ever saw. Kind of cool, though, in a living-history sort of way.

Jeannette said...

I skimmed. Congrats. Im sure if UMASS-Dartmouth ever did anything cool (not counting the professor who got a huge grant to study black holes---totally hot) Id be excited.

Um, but next week could you live-blog yourself getting a haircut, or something?