I received my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University*, a school that is nationally renowned for its enthusiasm around collegiate sports, particularly football and basketball. So even though I've never been a huge sports fan, I became quite passionate about the team, and attended every home game while I was a student there.
Once I graduated, however, I generally lost interest in watching sports. And so I'm embarrassed to say that this time last week, I had no idea that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four Men's National Basketball Championship was being held in Houston. In fact, when I heard the news on CNN while I was in Maryland, I thought perhaps I was hearing things.
I became a believer on the flight back home on Thursday, however: the plane was full of NCAA basketball coaches. It turns out that during the Final Four there's a huge conference for university coaches; and, in fact, one of them sat next to me for the ride home. Bless him, I peppered him with questions for the entire flight, and by the end of the trip (and especially given the huge Final Four fanfare that was in full swing at Hobby Airport when we landed), I found myself all caught up in the excitement around this championship tournament. In fact, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't followed any athletics this year. And so that evening, I decided that I wanted to add a new item to my life list: number 106, attend a nationally-televised sports championship game.
By the next day, however, I'd pretty much forgotten about the Final Four. Then, out of the blue, I received an email from this really lovely woman...
... which read, in essence, as follows:
I work in college athletics and am making my first trip this weekend to Houston for the men's basketball final four. Why I'm writing you is that I have two extra tickets to the games and I don't know a soul in Houston, let alone someone that would want them. We had a donor back out of using these at the last minute, so they are good seats, and available for free. I wanted to see if you, or anyone you know, would be interested in going to the games.
I thought about my latest life list addition, and then realized that even though it would be fun to go, if I actually did get the tickets, I really owed it to Marcus to give them to him to take a friend: after all, he was the one who played semi-professional hoops in the past; moreover, he's been holding down the fort a lot lately while I've been traveling. So I called him at work to make certain he was interested in going ("you're joking, right?" he gasped), and then emailed Karen back to let her know that her kindness would be highly appreciated by a certain British ex-basketball player.
She responded back immediately, and clarified: she had two tickets for each of the three games: the two semi-final games, as well as the championship game.
The word "gobsmacked" doesn't even begin to cover it.
A few phonecalls and logistical details later, we picked up the tickets from Karen (with profuse thanks), and made arrangements to share the tickets with our friends Trish and Carl (Trish is a huge basketball fan, and Carl is a coach). So Carl and Marcus went to see the two semi-final games on Saturday, and tonight, Trish and I attended the championship game, between Butler University and the University of Connecticut.
And the fact that I just typed that last sentence still blows my mind.
But I have proof:
It was such a great time, and congrats to Connecticut for their win. And thanks so much to Karen for the tickets -- it's going to take me a while to get over the fact that I was actually there.
With that, my friends, I'm off to bed.