It’s almost a tradition. I dedicate myself so fully to the tournament – to picking teams and running pools and watching teams I’ve never heard of for two days straight – that I feel a connection to whoever wins. I don’t care that much about college basketball all year; just like that, I’m so entrenched that I mistake myself for Billy Packer. And when it’s all over, I heap congratulations onto the winning team as if I actually had some stake in the entire process.
After a month of harrowed bracket busting, the tournament is finally finished, with only one team standing triumphant: the Kansas Jayhawks.
What’s surprisingly bittersweet about this is that I used to be a KU fan. Kind of.
Hailing from a university that was Division I in only hockey, I never laid much claim to a college team. I briefly flirted with Arizona during the Damon Stoudemire days, sure, but I never really committed to anyone.
After graduating, I found myself being drawn to the Jayhawks. I sort of rooted for them, in the way I sort of root for St. Cloud hockey – with a passing interest but no real devotion, like a rebound girlfriend that you’re holding onto until your crush dumps that jerk from Mr. Franklin’s home room.
I know whichever team I grasp onto, I’ll do so as a parasitic, non-reasoning fan; a fly-by-night bandwagon jumper. So I kept my Kansas fandom at a minimum, whatever little fandom there was.
But this year’s tournament was different. Something struck at me from my past, something that led me to choose UCLA as my Sure Bet and forget about the past two UCLA Final Four disasters.
In my blind devotion to Reggie’s legacy, I had somehow misplaced that he was a UCLA alum. Reggie! At UCLA! With Kareem and Bill Walton! With an amazing history and three of my favorite players of all time (and, coincidentally, one of the worst announcers. Slam it DOWN, Big Man!) why wouldn’t I become a UCLA fan?
So this year I did it. No bones about it. They’re my team. I ditched KU and went storming full force into the Pac-10, where I have now latched onto both the football and basketball programs.
Ditching KU, while not as hard to swallow as it was to, say, Roy Williams, seems a lot harder now that they’ve won the championship. But that’s okay. I never really loved them anyway. They could do better with someone else – with someone that can give them the attention they deserve.
It’s not you, KU. It’s me. Congrats.