March special for Jayhawk fans
Basketball's March Madness is on every television screen and "Go Hawks" has replaced "Hi" and "Bye" as our usual greeting for this zany season that comes once a year to cheer us up after a long, cold winter.
Stores are out of KU and Jayhawk trinkets, sweatshirts and memorabilia. Oldsters meet in coffee shops to cuss, discuss and analyze both today and yesterday's games. Talk of the "greats" emerges as echoes of past memories are recounted and names like Clyde Lovellette, Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning bounce across the tables in conversation. Fans sport KU apparel and even the little kids appear in too large jerseys and red, white and blue sneakers with blue and red beads encircling their necks.
This past weekend, which is usually dominated by St. Patrick's Day, was shared with KU's anticipated game with Kentucky as fans showed up for the parade in green T-shirts with the Jayhawk in the middle of the shamrock.
With the win over Kentucky Sunday, we can all relax for a few days before the next game this Thursday and hopefully the players will do the same. Coach Bill Self's remark about his players a few days ago was a classic and one that points out the youth of these players in spite of their talent and their size.
After winning the K-State game, Self remarked of his players, "They are a weird group. We have not talked about it (seeds). These guys, they are excited to get back in the room and play PlayStation. They don't seem to get rattled, like today. It's a businesslike approach."
Well, whatever it is, let's hope it gets them through this Thursday's game in San Jose and beyond.
My family was here over the weekend and of course, the tournament was much discussed. My daughter challenged everyone to remember just where they were when KU won the national title in 1988. She remarked that she was in the home of a longtime boyfriend whose family was from the East and could not understand her angst and ultimate joy as she watched KU bring home the title.
The daughter of a coach and growing up in a home of "sports freaks," she will never forget such events including the time she saved the day in her own softball career at age 14 by hitting the final home run to win the tournament in De Soto. At the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded, Rhonda (Stanley) Tuggle sidled up to her and said, "We really need this" and as the ball connected to the bat, Julie could not believe it was happening and neither could I. I remember that one, too.
We also discussed how training for a sport serves you well for the rest of your life. Besides providing discipline, it also includes you in a larger picture and group, which made me think of another of Self's remarks while talking about the KU--Kentucky game. When asked how so many high school all Americans can play such unselfish, team-oriented basketball, he replied, "The one thing about being at Kansas ... Kansas is about tradition. It is a lot bigger than individuals. That is something that's embedded in their minds the first day they walk on campus. It's proof that the past isn't done and over with -- it's still hovering around the program. You've got Danny Manning in the locker room with them every day. No matter what you do, you're not going to do more than he did." I'm sure that does much to keep individual egos in perspective.
Group sports and being part of such a group is often the link that affirms us as individuals while promoting sharing and support of others at the same time. It also provides lifelong friendships, as well as encouraging us to do our best for the good of the whole. Sports unite us, especially in small towns like Eudora where school activities are the heart of what's happening in the community. These are qualities that are learned when we are young but serve us well later in life as we go to our work stations and raise our families.
So get your popcorn and brownies ready, your blue and red T-shirts laundered and your schedules cleared and ready for Thursday's game. While a prayer to win a basketball game may sound sacrilegious, and even though we assume God is on all sides it wouldn't hurt to put a little word in for our team -- just this once? Go Hawks.