Welcome to the refreshed Rock Chalk Talk! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports community, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here. and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Rules for the Fanpost contest:
1. Readers (aka people who are not on the masthead) should go to the FanPosts section and write a post with the headline 'Why I'm a fan of the Kansas Jayhawks'.
2. The post should be under 800 words.
3. SB Nation will collect these posts into a section and they will be automatically entered into a random drawing.
4. That's it!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes starts on 8:00am ET on May 25, 2017 and ends at 11:59pm ET on June 8, 2017. Open only to eligible legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, odds of winning, alternative method of entry, prize details and restrictions, etc. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.
My family moved from Ferguson, Missouri to Lawrence, Kansas 30 years ago this summer, just in time for the 1987-88 school year. My dad was a Major in the U.S. Army at the time, and he'd come to the University of Kansas where he was set to train cadets in KU's Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).
I was in second grade at the time. Back then Lawrence was about 60,000 people not counting the students on the hill. Perhaps even more so than today, in '87 the entire town absolutely revolved around the university. It was the hub and heart of the town and people were obsessed with their red and blue cartoon bird. The first live sporting event - outside of my brother's high school basketball games in St. Louis – was a KU football game. My dad was always coming home from work with free tix to KU football. And there was a reason for that. The '87 Jayhawks football team was a showcase in atrocious incompetence during Bob Valasente's final 1-9-1 season in Lawrence.
It was alright though, everyone in town told us, because basketball season was a lot better. But that season, ravaged by injuries and an inconsistent offensive production, the university's flagship sports program stumbled through mediocrity, sustaining 11 losses before surprising everyone by even making the 1988 NCAA Tournament field in late March.
We all know what came next. The 'Hawks started playing their best ball of the season, aided by a bracket that absolutely fell apart around them on their way to the Final Four to be played at Kemper Arena just down the road in Kansas City.
The town became possessed by basketball fever. It was all anyone could talk about. And it was all insanely exciting for an eight year old kid in his first true introduction to sports fandom. It was impossible not to get caught up in it all.
I'll never forget that Friday, on the eve of the '88 Final Four. None of the teachers could concentrate. They had us all doing Jayhawk themed projects. The choir teacher even had us in the gym singing cheesy modified songs like, "Goin' to Kansas City! Kansas City Final Four!" The local news was even there filming that deafening, shill, child shout singing.
The Tuesday after KU won their first basketball title in 36 years, we were in school a total of three hours before they called it off so everyone could go to Memorial Stadium to hear the victory speeches from Larry Brown and his players and then watch the parade downtown. I remember sitting on top of a crosswalk box on a post on the corner of 10th and Mass and watching Danny Manning giving people high fives from the back of a convertible as it drove down the street.
That insane three week run to glory in the spring of '88 by the Kansas' men's basketball team made me a fan of the school and its teams for life. Still living in Lawrence, every time the team makes a deep run in the tournament it starts all over again. It's an intoxicating feeling. And it's been that way every single spring for pretty much the better part of 30 years. The cruel nature of following any sports team is, by virtue of the very game, is that most people rarely get to see the team they follow let alone their alma mater - as KU eventually was mine - win a title. The fact is, as a KU fan, I've been able to enjoy the title ride twice in my, relatively, young life – once as a twenty-something partying on Mass Street and once through the awestruck eyes of a Lawrence second grader. Unforgettable.