More on the moment

An e-mail back-and-forth with Kansas City Star KU beat man Brady McCollough:

Me: Enjoyed your piece. Posted it on the blog at 16point8.blogspot.com. I’ve obviously thought A LOT about that moment, probably too much, but hey -- it felt right, and it feels right, and so I thought about it and still think about it. In your story, you write about the image of Self on his knees – “the purest kind of relief” -- and that’s part of the conversation that’s been going on mainly in my own head since almost that moment itself. Since Detroit. Was starting to knock around up there literally as I was walking out of Ford Field. Question: What to make of the differences between the emotions being felt in the immediate aftermath of that game by Kansas fans and by Davidson fans? In other words: The predominant emotion on the Kansas side was Self’s emotion: RELIEF. The predominant emotion on the Davidson side, I think, was … fullness? Maybe that’s a tad revisionist. Missed opportunity, for sure, but the emotions I was feeling right after that game, and the emotions that were being felt by many others on the Davidson side, were just so … overwhelming. So varied. So full. So … interesting. Contrast that with relief. Relief is a form of happiness, for sure, but it also, by definition, is happiness above all else, I think, that the OTHER thing did NOT happen, not that THIS thing DID. You know?

Brady: That difference in emotions is what made the Kansas-Davidson game the most fascinating psychological battle of the college basketball season last year. You had Kansas, a basketball blueblood and perennial power that had not performed up to expectations in the NCAA Tournament in five years and hadn’t won the big one in 20 years. In the Jayhawks’ corner, all you had was negative energy on that day: Bill Self’s 0-4 record in the Elite Eight (encompassing trips with Tulsa, Illinois and KU) and Jayhawk failures under Roy Williams (losing to Arizona in 1997, Rhode Island in 1998 and Syracuse in 2003). The Jayhawks played like they understood their reality all too well: If they lost, they would let down hundreds of thousands of fans and alumni. Then you had Davidson, with enough positive vibes to make downtown Detroit seem less Gotham and more Metropolis. (Okay, not quite that positive). Davidson had America pulling for it, they had absolutely no expectations to live up to and that’s how they played. When Jason Richards’ shot didn’t fall, Davidson’s fans were crushed, of course. But they appreciated the fleetingness of the moment. Kansas fans, after a loss, would have left the arena assuming that a trip to the Elite Eight in the next few years was a foregone conclusion. They would have gone home to their Rivals.com accounts and started forecasting the 2010 starting lineup. Davidson fans left the arena with the stark realization that they may never experience those two hours ever again. Am I right?

Me: Fleeting, yes, granted -- absolutely -- but NEVER is a big word. There were plenty of people there that day in Detroit, middle-aged men, dressed in red and black, who were boys the last time Davidson played a game for a spot in the Final Four, against Carolina, in College Park, back in 1969, and still have vivid memories. Here’s the thing: I don’t want to judge and in essence try to quantify the validity or the intrinsic value of one fan’s experience of that moment versus that of another. But I do wonder: Let’s say Davidson fans really did understand -- your word -- the “fleetingness” of that moment. The specialness. Let’s say that because of that they watched it and felt it that much more intently. Let’s say Kansas fans left thinking mainly: Whew, what a relief, that was close, too close, shouldn’t have been that close. Let’s say life is pretty much white noise, blah, blah, blah, one foot in front of the other, except for very, VERY few moments of true, clear meaning, where time practically slows to a stop, and that give you the energy to even begin to put up with all the blah, blah, blah. Davidson got one of those moments, and its fans, even inside that moment, right then and there, seemed to know it. Kansas fans? They wanted the shot to miss. Maybe I’m being totally unfair. But I can’t help but compare.

1 comment:

DrFrankLives said...

Interesting exchange. In addition to what you wrote, Michael, I would add that there were plenty of Davidson fans who left that game or turned off the TV and immediately started thinking about the lineup for this season. I wouldn't say there is no expectation we'll et back there again. We do have apretty special kid on our team who I am sure fully expects to be in such a game again before he graduates... yes, I said it. Before he graduates.