University of Virginia in the early 1980s, when basketball was THE sport, and Ralph Sampson was (literally) the big man on campus. I was a four year student season ticket holder, and I never missed a home game.
Those were great years for UVa hoops, and I remember March Madness in the spring of 1984, when our beloved Hoos made it to the Final Four, only to have Guy Lewis and Phi Slamma Jamma - from the University of Houston - advance while our team went home.
In the intervening 35 years, I have watched a lot of UVa basketball.
Last year, 2018, Virginia went into the tournament as the overall Number 1 seed. I was thrilled...and in anticipation of lots of tournament watch parties, I went into the studio and made myself a blue, orange and white pendant and put a Virginia "V" on the back of it.
Then came the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For the first time ever, a Number 16 seed knocked off not just a Number 1 regional seed, but THE Number 1 seed. A few days later, as if to add insult to injury, it was announced the commencement speaker at my daughter's college graduation would be none other than the president of UMBC - Freeman A. Hrabowski III.
Honestly, by May I had moved on to baseball. Dr. Hrabowski turned out to be a fabulous, inspirational speaker and graduation weekend was wonderful.
The boys of summer came and went, and so did football season. Finally, college basketball season rolled around again - and as I do every year - I started following my Hoos. We won the ACC championship, and punched our ticket for the the big dance. We played hard and didn't go home; not in the first round, not after making it to the Sweet Sixteen and then the Elite Eight. No - we made it back to the Final Four, and another shot at a national title.
Now, we don't call them the "Heartattack Hoos" for nothing. In every round, at every game, we held our breaths until the final buzzer. We beat Oregon, and then Purdue (in overtime) by 5 points - and we thought those were close games - but then came Auburn.
I put on my fused glass earrings, my pendant and my class ring and headed out to cheer on my Hoos. As it happened, a group of my classmates - some of whom I hadn't seen in 35 years - were in town for the weekend, so we gathered with the local alumni club where we watched the game and clutched our chests.
With a buzzer beating foul and three amazing buckets from Kyle Guy at the stripe - they did it! All season this team had fought hard, and now they earned the right to play for the national championship.
As difficult as this might be to believe, I won't be watching tonight's game...we have tickets to see Lucinda Williams at Austin City Limits - on her 20th anniversary tour for Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. But - fear not - I am still wearing my orange and blue and will be checking my phone - discreetly, of course - from time to time.
I won't say that it doesn't matter whether we win or lose this evening - because IT DOES MATTER - but, not as much as you might think.
It's been a really rough couple of years for the town - and institution - I love so much, and this season has been more than about just winning games. It has been about community, about overcoming anxiety and adversity, and remembering that you should never, ever give up.
Until next time.