Dr. Osterhout Signs Off
In my last post as a card-carrying Going Mad roadtripper, I'd like to accomplish four things. Firstly, I'd like to convey why I love basketball so much, using yesterday's Final Four games as an example. Secondly, I'd like to restate how great a city San Antonio is. Thirdly, I'd like to compliment my partner Cyrus for surviving this odyssey. And finally, I'd like to leave you with a pithy amalgamation of the life lessons I've learned on the roadtrip.
How come more cheerleaders don't wear cowboy hats?
1. Before yesterday's Final Four games, I said to Cyrus, "Memphis and UNC are going to win. Take that to the bank. I'm one hundred percent positive." I had good reason to be so sure of myself. I'd seen all four teams play multiple times this season and had already carefully evaluated all aspects of the match-ups. Memphis had gelled as a team and, as of late, looked unstoppable. Faced with such raw talent, UCLA would have to play a near perfectly controlled game. Kansas seemed vulnerable against Davidson and I wasn't sure about their inside defense. I thought UNC, led by Tyler Hansbrough, would tear the Jayhawks apart from the inside out.
And this is why I love college basketball - because I was wrong, and not just once. Pick any game all season and anything can happen. Certain teams show up for certain games and other teams come out flat. Yeah, that happens in every sport, but more so in college sports than in professional sports, and even more so in college basketball than in, let's say, college football, because there are only five guys on the court at any given time. The games rely so much on these young and fallible heroes that the fans get to see a very real and human side to athletics.
I've seen Joey Dorsey brought to tears after a brutal loss to Tennessee. I've seen Tyler Hansbrough search desperately for the positive after an early season loss to Duke. I've seen Russell Robinson cry on senior night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. There's a very real and passionate side to this sport, one where losing and winning have as much to do with caring and concentration as physical skill.
And that's what I love, not necessarily the high-flying acrobatics of a Rose or the chest pass of a Love, but the raw emotions that seep out the bindings of student-athletes that have dedicated their entire lives to a sport and have, as all but 12 do each season, failed to achieve their ultimate goal - a National Championship.
After yesterday's performance, I'm not so sure of that.
2. I love you San Antonio! I'm from the East Coast and have had my fair share of unspectacular experiences in Texas, but the Alamo City rocks. It is the perfect place to host an event like the Final Four. The weather this time of year is beautiful. You can walk everywhere, from the bars to the hotels to the Alamodome. And the River Walk is pure urban design genius. Somehow you can be in the middle of a city in the middle of the U.S.A. and feel like you're in la-la land. There are a lot of people in town for the Final Four. I mean, a lot. Yet, somehow, after the second game let out last night, everyone and their mother walked from the arena to the River Walk and, except for a few minor medical emergencies, there were no issues. Detroit, good luck following on the heels of such a great host city. You ain't got the weather, the River Walk or the manageable distances...
3. Cyrus and I have now been on the road for 73 straight days. That's two and a half months of sharing everything, from hotel rooms to bathrooms to holding cells. Sharing anything, never mind a life, for that long is not easy, let me tell you. And as a testament to Cyrus, I love the kid just as much now as I did before the trip. Not only is he a more fluid writer than I, but he's just a good guy. He's honest and resourceful and sensitive to the needs of others, mainly me. And I can be a pretty terrible person sometimes, especially after not sleeping for 48 hours. But Cyrus never held back. If I was an ass, he called me an ass. And for not holding back, for not harboring cheap emotions, for not playing silly girl games, I've developed a deep respect and, dare I say, love for my partner in crime. In fact, I'd give him a hug right now, but he smells so bad I'd probably pass out. (He claims it's his shoes...)
Everyone seemed to know the Dude on press row except for Cyrus and me.
4. In the end, college basketball is just a game. If this trip has taught me anything so far, it's just that. No matter who is playing or how much money is being made, college basketball is just a competitive activity that's meant to provide entertainment and amusement to the masses. And when this game starts to become something more serious, and less fun, then we've lost the very essence of college basketball. When fans stand up at every stoppage in play and scream obscenities at referees, then we've lost the essence of the game. When student sections chant "asshole" at an opposing player, then we've lost the essence of the game. When coaches don't put their seniors on the court on Senior Night to preserve the team's chances of winning, then we've lost the essence of the game. As corruption sets in, college hoops goes from a pure and wholesome game to a seedy and dark business that values money over hard work and passion.
Fortunately, most of the college basketball Cyrus and I have seen, has been true to its untainted roots as a team sport that can be played both indoors and outside with minimal equipment. In fact, when done right, hoops can be downright enlightening. It can take years of hard work and practice and refine that down to one fantastical moment. Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers' nails a game-winning shot in the Tournament. Washington University in St. Louis wins its first D-III championship. Davidson overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat the Big East and Big 10 Champs.
Notice the symmetry. I did.
Of course, much of the atmosphere surrounding college hoops is due in large part to a cast of characters who never even touch a basketball on game day - the bands, the cheerleaders, the students, the guy in Section 314 that painted his entire body blue. So I'd like to extend a special thanks to these peripheral characters who do it for the love of the game or their school or just life.
There, I've accomplished the four goals I set out to accomplish in this, my final blog post. Now, it's time to say good-bye to the loyal few who have gotten this far in the trip, or even this entry. Thanks for sticking with Going Mad for the 10,000 miles and 70 or so games. I think there are only two of you, but hey, two is better than none.
It's like I said at the end of last year's Hoops Odyssey: when all is said and done, life would just be a better place if we'd follow the advice of a sign that used to hang outside a cheesesteak joint on Flatbush in Brooklyn. The sign read - "Shoot Hoops. Not Guns."
Right? It doesn't have to be a whole lot more complicated than that. The game is real simple.