March Moment: Three ReminiscencesPosted by jstevrtc on March 23rd, 2010
Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.
In this edition, we have submissions from three friends. In the first, RTC utility man Tom Hager remembers a time he had to improvise a way to celebrate after two buzzer-beaters; the second has RTC correspondent Jason Prizoborowski barely escaping extended hoops deprivation; the third has Friend of the Program Mike Kiffney — he of the patented “Kiffney three” — showing his age by recalling how he met a legend from his high school, and making a prediction that will please fans of the Orange:
TH: My March moment came when I was 11 years old. It was Friday night of the first round of the NCAA tournament, and I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. He had no interest in basketball, but fortunately for me, he had fallen asleep by 9:00 that night. I spent the rest of the night watching some of the most exciting basketball I had ever seen in my life. I was sitting in the lower bunk trying to keep quiet as I watched Georgetown defeat Arkansas 63-61 on a buzzer-beater. I remember watching Nat Burton drive to the lane and sink a shot just before time expired. When head coach Craig Esherick was asked for his thoughts on the game winner, he actually looked a little upset. “The play was not designed to go to him…” was how Esherick began the interview, but stated that Burton was a senior, and had the experience to take the shot.
That same night, I watched what I still think might be the best upset in the history of college basketball, when a team I had never heard of (Hampton) with a bunch of players I had never heard of (yeah, Tarvis Williams) defeat highly touted Iowa State. After Williams sank a hook shot with a few seconds left, and Jamaal Tinsley missed his shot at the buzzer, I saw Hampton’s cheerleaders, players, and even coach Steve Merfeld jump in the air. I was doing the exact same. I ran outside my friend’s room and into his kitchen, where I could jump and scream (internally) over what had just happened without waking him up. By the time I was done celebrating, I had done more fist pumps than Tiger Woods and I was out of breath. I remember trying to go to bed that night but I was too excited to fall asleep right away, as that play ran over and over in my head. To this day, it is still my lasting image of the NCAA Tournament.
JP: March was always the greatest month of the year for me because of March Madness, but I didn’t realize how much I loved it until it was taken away. In 2008, my job at the time required me to travel during the first week of March Madness. I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a week-long music tour (most musicians didn’t know it was the biggest week for college basketball), and had the opportunity to stay with a retired couple during this leg of the trip.
I knew the couple was big into golf, but there was no sign of a love for basketball, or a TV for that matter. I was a little depressed not to be able to watch any games during the day, and I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to watch any games at night in Raleigh, either.
After coming home at night after the performance, I was greeted by the couple, and asked if I wanted to watch the basketball game. I was shocked to find a great flat screen TV hidden behind an inconspicuous cabinet, a phenomenally comfortable recliner, and a bowl of ice cream waiting for me.
I can’t even remember the game that was on at the time, but I remember feeling extremely grateful to be watching the greatest game on the planet at the best time of the year. That moment also gave me an incredible amount of respect for my host family.
MK: As a kid in the 70s and 80s, I was a huge sports fan, but my focus was primarily on baseball and football. I liked playing basketball, but I didn’t watch a lot of college ball or religiously follow the NCAA Tournament. Then, in the early 80s (I forget what year, but it was likely ’83 or ’84), Sam Perkins came to visit my elementary school. The Big Smooth — pre-cornrows, of course — had graduated from my suburban upstate New York high school a few years back. He was a legend. We weren’t exactly the most athletic group, and he was — and still is, BY FAR — the most famous person ever to attend Shaker High. At the time of his visit, he was playing for UNC on a dominating team with Michael Jordan and James Worthy, not that I cared, since I was meeting Sam-Freaking-Perkins! Like any 10-year old kid, meeting such a famous athlete affected my view of the sports world. I started regularly watching and following college basketball, and later followed Perkins’ career in the NBA, rooting for whatever team on which he played (except that year he spent on the Lakers).
Here’s the weird part, though. Even though it was meeting Sam Perkins that kicked my love of college basketball into high gear, I didn’t root for UNC. This was the early ‘80s, and I lived outside of Albany, NY. My favorite college football team was Syracuse, mostly because it was the team we got on TV (this was back when we got the CBS game and the CBS game only). I also rooted for Syracuse football for the reason most kids root for a team: my father rooted for them. So when I started to follow college basketball, Syracuse was the obvious choice. I had good timing. Pearl Washington was starring for ‘Cuse by then. I’ve loved the game and the Tournament, of course, ever since then. I’m just glad ‘Cuse finally managed to win it all…and will again this year!