Not in Kansas anymore, Mac student still Jayhawk at heart

By Eddie Oliver

The Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA Championship last Mondayand and I was mildly excited about it. Well, I guess you could say I was extremely happy. OK, I was hysterically ecstatic. Now that I think of it, it was the single greatest moment of my life and probably will be for some time to come, most likely overshadowing any future marriage or arrival of children. To the non-sports fan, it might seem like I’m exaggerating. It’s pathetic, I know, but I’m really not. Only a select few die-hard sports fans can relate to what I experienced (Red Sox fans circa 2004 come to mind). Many teams go decades without championships but nearly all are mired in mediocrity or worse, rarely raising hopes of a triumphant end to the season.

KU last won the NCAA tournament in 1988, the March before I was born. I underwent year after year of 30-win seasons, number one rankings, number one tournament seeds, conference championships, NBA lottery picks, devastating heartbreaks and exactly zero titles in my lifetime.until now.

Kansas basketball is as much a part of my identity as my sense of humor or religion. Most major events of my life can be put on a timeline relative to KU players and games. I remember the tears that flowed freely as a child with each end to a magnificent, yet disappointing season. Of course, my priorities changed as I grew older and came to learn that it was just a game, not life and death. I stopped being quite so upset after losses and came to accept the fact that my greatest aspiration, that of a championship, would not be realized any time soon.

However, I did continue to dream of the day I would attend KU and “wave the wheat” with the crazy frat boys in the student section. Eventually, that priority changed, as I realized college is about much more than sports (obviously.I went to Macalester).

In a year filled with new experiences with which I often struggled, the Kansas basketball team served as my connection to home, representing a large part of me that I had left behind. For the first time, I watched the less meaningful regular-season games alone, and though they continued to play well all year, I never raised my expectations too high. I knew how it had worked in the past. With just over two minutes to go in the championship game, a game I had seen Kansas lose before, my beloved Jayhawks trailed by nine points, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I tried my best to balance my protective doubts with the upwelling of hope I felt. Two minutes, one overtime period, and one truly miraculous shot later, my lifelong dream came true. My years of unwavering devotion were affirmed in an instant.

I was a kid all over again, looking for inspiration and transcendence from a sports team, and this time finding it in its ultimate form. I celebrated the best I could, with new friends in a new location, all the while knowing my family and friends back in Kansas were celebrating together. In crimson and blue spirit, I was with them as well, for there is a community and life I will never truly leave behind as long as I can watch my Jayhawks play. I did not cry that night (I swear.though I did scream like a girl), but if I had, for the first time, they would have been tears of joy.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk. Forever.