Friday, March 16, 2007

Dear Christian,

You don’t know me but fifteen years ago, you changed my life. You officially made me crazy.

You and your stupid 1992 shot, that is. That’s right, I’m not capitalizing the word “shot.” I’m not putting a “the” in front of it to give it any more attention or reverence than its already gotten. If I wanted to be sportwomanlike, I’d give you your props. I’d say that it was pretty amazing that with only 2.1 seconds left, Grant Hill could inbound the ball eighty feet, and that you could catch it, turn around, even dribble, for God’s sake, and still manage to sink a shot that would end a double-overtime and send Duke to the Final Four. All with :01 seconds to spare.

But the thing is, Christian, I’m not feeling so sportswomanlike, even after fifteen years. And I bet Aminu Timberlake isn’t feeling so sportsmanlike, either. Remember him? Or have you forgotten about the player whose chest you intentionally stepped on as he lay on the floor after being fouled? Does that ring any bells for you?

Despite your bad behavior, I was impressed with Coach K, he seemed like a nice guy and an amazing coach, though he proved himself to be a bit of a whiner a few years later. (You can’t always play in Greensboro, Coach K.) I had no problems with Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley was fine too. But you. You, Christian, changed my perspective on college basketball forever. You made me crazier about it than I ever was before. And for that, I have to thank you.

Because before 1992, I had only one team to cheer for. After 1992, I cheered for Kentucky and anyone who played Duke. Crazy, right? Maybe so. But there’s an entire state that will agree with me and gladly stand behind me.

Some people pick their tournament brackets based on records, statistics, and skill. Not me, Christian. I pick with my heart, and thanks to you, that always involves picking Kentucky to win and Duke to lose. I can’t tell you how many brackets I’ve tanked with that theory, but I’ve had the pleasure of watching and cheering for teams I might never have taken an interest in.

Had you not made that shot, I might never have gone to the ridiculous trouble of rearranging my life to be at the rematch in ’98. I might never have bought a plane ticket on Monday—four days before I knew if we’d even win on Friday—in order to advance to the potential game with Duke on Saturday. I might never have gotten up at three in the morning to take two Southwest flights, rent a car, then drive three hours across the state to Tampa to meet my brother—all without even having a ticket to the game. I probably wouldn’t have cursed myself as I sat in the middle of thousands of Duke fans—not a Kentucky t-shirt in sight—wondering why in the hell I’d made the trip, and if we’d be able to come back from being seventeen points down. I definitely never would’ve stormed the floor when we won and I for sure wouldn’t have gotten to high-five Ashley Judd. And I probably wouldn’t have Cameron Mills’ face—the one he made after Cameron Mills sank the three-pointer that put us ahead for good—permanently etched in my memory. See what I’m saying? I’m nuts.

In fact, as soon as I’m done writing this, I’m heading to a sports bar so I can watch my Cats take on Villanova, another team I learned to love in 1985 when they beat Georgetown to win the national championship. I wanted Georgetown to lose too, because like you, a few members of their team seemed a little too cocky. See how it works? There’s a method to my madness.

In another hour or so, I’ll be hoisting my shot glass of Maker’s Mark to mark the beginning of Kentucky making it to yet another March Madness. They probably won’t make it very far this year, and that bums me out. But I’ll sure have fun cheering for the VCU Rams, my new favorite team as of last night at, oh, about eight pm Pacific time, when they beat your Dookies. It’s sick, I tell you, how I latch on to teams.

So thank you, Christian for pushing me over the edge into complete hoops insanity. And thank you, March for finally getting here. I’ve been waiting.

All the best,

PS—This is a link to the real Greatest Game Ever Played (note the caps). Take note.

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