Note: It is 3:34 a.m. and I have just finished this post. It started out such a great idea with such inspiration and direction, yet turned so tragically wrong and into incessant rambling. It was something that needed to be said, though, so let it be said.
Late night the day after a game has become my routine time to begin pushing coverage and conversation here at RCT towards the upcoming game and further away from the previous one. That was fully my intention this evening, as well - until I was linked to this footage of the scene inside Allen Fieldhouse Monday night just moments before the tipoff against Missouri.* Words could not describe my thoughts, my feelings and the emotional adrenaline coarsing through my veins afterwards. So much, in fact, that I proceeded to watch it six more times. Each time as hair-raising as the time before.
Somewhere between viewings three and four, it hit me - that epiphanical (my own word, derived from "epiphany", used as an adjective) moment in which I felt nothing but thankfulness that everyday I get to wake up in the morning and be a Jayhawk.** I am so blessed to have something that I am so passionate about, something that I love so much, something that I have so heavily invested myself into that I spend my free time and late nights writing about it, because I love it so much. We are all lucky. And, that is something that crossed my mind yesterday morning while listening to "The Program with Soren Petro," a local sports radio show here in Kansas City.
As fans of Kansas basketball, sometimes we forget to think about what we do have, what we have been given and what it means to be a Jayhawk. So many times we get caught up in what a player needs to do to be better, what needs to happen for the team to be better or what coach Self should be doing. So much we forget to enjoy what is and realize that we can't control was is to be.
* Needless to say, this will not be your first preview of Saturday's big game at Kansas State.
** Every morning I wake up to my cell phone alarm - Bob Davis's call of Mario's Miracle. No matter how much I don't want to wake up, I can't bring myself to turn the alarm off until the call is complete, saying it aloud myself, right along with Bob. There is no better way to start a day. The first thing I see when I look up from my bed - a shelf full of endless Jayhawk memorabilia, a poster on the wall, my Jayhawk trash can and framed full page photo of Mario Chalmers celebrating with the caption "SUPER MARIO" from the day after in the Kansas City Star. It surrounds me and I wouldn't have it any other way. I know - I'm like a six year old kid with his first obsession. I deal with it just fine; so should you.
Contrary to what some who know me may think, I am a very deep thinker. In fact, thinking is one of my greater flaws. Not in the sense that I can't do it, but that I do it far, far too much. But, occasionally, a brief moment of clarity comes to me and I feel stupid for not realizing it sooner. Such a thing happened yesterday afternoon listening to Petro. The premise of what he said that got me was that the Kansas basketball program is so privileged (in a good way) that the things that should make us so happy sometimes fail to, because it has become so routine.
For instance, not only beating your biggest rival, but taking them behind the woodshed in doing so, should make any fan's day - maybe even week. Sometimes, as Jayhawks, we don't even realize what something means. What I mean by that is that while we are constantly looking ahead, eye on the prize, it is moments like Monday night that we need to remember to cherish and savor. I would tend to guess that waking up yesterday morning for most Jayhawks was accompanied with the thought of, "well, that was fun, but that's what we expected; time for work," and that is the extent of enjoyment - unless, of course, you have Missouri fan co-workers. But, what I'm trying to get at is that had Missouri beaten us Monday night, that would have been a sustained high for that entire fanbase for a week, a month or straight through until the rematch in early March, regardless of what they did the rest of the way. That is one thing that less storied programs do better than the most historic ones - appreciate the good times in such a way that it will not be soon forgotten, simply because it is not the norm.
Being on top and being one of the best is tough. It's fun, yes, but it's tough to handle. So little can bring true joy. What do people want the most in life? The things they can't have. Let me explain. Winning the Big 12 title isn't quite what it was six years ago, is it? It's great and all - don't get me wrong - but being so used to it as Jayhawks, it's lost some of its luster. This would explain why winning the National Championship two years ago was such an incredible, awe-inspiring feeling. It hadn't been done in 20 years. That was (to the year) my lifespan that Kansas went without a national title. I didn't know what it was to win one, so I wanted nothing more than that. Forget the fashion that it was done in. It was something new and something that had been unattainable up until that point. It was the pinnacle and uncharted territory.
Complacency. As Jayhawks, that is the worst thing that we can allow to creep into our fanhood. A sense of entitlement and everything being a right. Too often we expect certain things to be automatic and don't have the proper understanding and appreciation of what it takes to get there. We all want a sixth straight Big 12 title this year. But, have you stopped to think for a moment what that would mean? Six isn't necessarily all that big of a number. It's really not. Only five other number are smaller than it. But, in the context of consecutive Big 12 titles, that is a GIGANTIC number. That's six full years of dominance. Think about what goes into that much time - the different teams, the players, the memories, the games, the struggles and triumphs. It didn't just happen on accident. There was a journey to the mounatin top, each and every year. There are moments that stick out for good reason, but can you honestly say that you enjoyed the ride along the way more than worrying about getting there?
Live in the now and enjoy this one. I bring all of this up because I am as guilty of everything I have mentioned as anyone. I've spent more time worrying about what's going to happen and not about what just happened that is so great. I have been a negative Nancy about the smallest of things when there were a million things to be positive about. But, from here on out, I will do my very best to enjoy every moment and savor them as they come and remember what it was like to go along for that ride. This season could end up anywhere from 12-4 and third place in the Big 12 with a first round loss in the NCAA tournament to National Champions, once again. Which one it will be closer to, no one knows. And, the worst thing about it? Nothing we do can affect it. So, why get all bent out of shape over it? We've got one of the very best coaches in the game leading our team. We've got one of the greatest college basketball competitors of the last decade leading his teammates. We have a roster so full of talent that our ninth and tenth men could start for 90 percent of the teams in Division 1 college basketball. We will be alright, I promise. This team will go as far as it is supposed to - however far that is.
The day that the Kansas Jayhawks take the court and Sherron Collins is not among them will be the day that the Royals make the playoffs - it just doesn't seem like something that should ever happen. So, let's enjoy having him. He has graced us with his presence over the last four years. He came back for one more year to give us, the fans, one final, wild ride and because he knows and senses what it means to be a Jayhawk. Does anybody exude what it means to be a Jayhawk through actions more than him. I doubt it. The least we can do is appreciate that and enjoy him practicing his craft each and every game.
Winningest player in Kansas history. That's what he is nearing becoming. That sounds really nice because it means the most wins for one player ever. But, in a day where everyone wants more, more, more, you fail to stop and break down what that title really means. I watch the pregame video and see all of those old photos of guys who are just nameless faces to me, because I have no idea who they are. They wear Kansas across the chest, but to me, they are undefined. In a program that has so much tradition and history, how can you possibly know of it all? How can this one player, so special and gifted, top them all? That's special. Has it not been an absolute privilege to cheer for him for the last four years? I don't know about you, but I have a newfound sense of appreciation for him after really thinking about what being the winningest player in Kansas history means.
I also have a newfound appreciation for what it means to be a Jayhawk. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.