We had a good time at the game last night. But a 7:30 PM tip off is just a little too late for a 7 year old.
Context: This picture was taken after everyone had left the sold out arena. We were seated directly next to the student section. They were loud and crazy from 30 minutes before tip off until the game was over. Like 100+ decibels.
Paul passed out at halftime. Yeah, right after Coach Steve Fisher caused the place to nearly explode by arguing to get the final play of the half reversed and SDSU to make a tip in basket. And he slept through the whole second half.
I carried him on my shoulders about a mile to our car. Through campus and rowdy students, over the bridge, and past all of the freshmen dorms. (Because I’m too cheap to pay to park in the lot.)
This morning, he was bewildered at how he got from the arena to the car. But I didn’t carry him because he can’t remember that.
I wouldn’t have traded time with him for the world.
I’m an Indiana kid. Growing up, I played 21 from the time the neighbors driveway thawed until school started. Sometimes dozens of games per day. Not to sound like a John Cougar Mellencamp song, but we played until our fingers bled. Then we’d have lunch and play until it got dark.
Where I went to school everyone went to every high school basketball game. This culminated in 1994 with Clay High School making an improbable run to the state Final Four and winning it all in a come-from-behind thriller.
That love of the game carried on into college when I played endless games of pick-up basketball and even had a little stint as student sports information director for both men’s and women’s basketball teams. I’ve sat on the sidelines, keeping score, operating the shot clock… hundreds of games. I love it.
Not quite like my love for Notre Dame football. (Or cheddar cheese) But love nonetheless.
Finally, this year I have a lot to cheer about on the hardwood.
Notre Dame is very good. At 18-4, having beaten some very good teams, they are a lock for the NCAA tournament with 5 weeks to go. I’ve watched them play on TV a bunch. They might not be the most dynamic team in the Big East but I think they may be the most feared. No one wants to try to stop Ben Hansbrough. Because if you do he’ll just pass it off to someone else who will light you up. I’ve not seem them play better, top to bottom, in the Big East than with the squad they have this year. If they keep this up they would be a disappointment at anything less than a Sweet-16 berth.
San Diego State is ridiculous. I know that many people outside of the West Coast have been able to see them play yet. The Mountain West has a horrid TV deal with its own network which keeps them off of ESPN. But they are 22-1 and easily the best team in the west. I have kicked myself since November for not getting season tickets when I had the chance. But tonight will be my third game and I have another game next week to go to… but that’s it. They are sold out the rest of the way. The thing most people don’t understand is that SDSU has no star. They have 8 guys who could each start and one of them goes off to dominate each game. I’ve seen Billy White take over a game. I’ve seen Malcolm Thomas destroy teams. I’ve seen Kawhi Leonard make teams look silly. And D.J. Gay has ruined some teams from the point. It’s the craziest thing. But Coach Fisher has somehow kept the whole thing together, kept everyone focused, and been quick to remind his team that NO ONE outside of San Diego respects them. They barely even make it onto SportsCenter!
My biggest fear is that these two teams will play in the 2nd round of the NCAA. Ideally, they will meet in an Elite 8 or (be still, heart) the Final Four. Both of them are that good. And neither would surprise me to be there.
Let’s go Irish!
S-D-S-U! Aztecs Fight!
This is more fun in person.
As a good friend and SDSU alumni is quick to tell me, I joined the Aztecs fan-dome at just the right moment in history. It’s been amazing to see this school go from identifying itself as a party school to a campus full of pride for its athletics. (Baseball, football, and now basketball.)
Not many people outside of Southern California have noticed this transformation. But it is exhilarating.
When we moved into the college area almost three years ago I decided I would embrace the school… because it’s part of my neighborhood and some of our neighbors are students. Yet, as a person who grew up around a major university, I was shocked by how little people cared about SDSU. You’d rarely see non-students wearing SDSU gear, people didn’t care about the sports, and even the school itself was kind of a third or fourth choice place. Non-student neighbors didn’t take much pride in being in the college area. And, unlike in South Bend, there wasn’t a soul who had the school’s logo painted on their garage door or a school flag hanging from their flag pole.
Yesterday was marked by three major things in the life of SDSU.
First, they welcomed 4100 brand new freshmen on campus. They had record applications.
Second, I rode the train home from work with a trolley car full of fans headed to the game…. this is two full hours before tip off! This is something you only see with the Charger or maybe the Padres if the Angels are in town.
Third, the national media has no choice but to pay attention. They were the first team to 20 wins and hold the longest win streak in the NCAA.
As I walked around the Viejas Arena last night before finding my seats I did an extra loop around the stadium because the buzz was palpable. Everyone was wearing SDSU gear, walking through campus I saw tons of visitors carrying bookstore bags… and I mumbled to myself, “This is what jumping on the bandwagon feels like.“
If you aren’t familiar with the head coach Steve Fisher at San Diego State you should be. In fact, if you aren’t familiar with his 19-0 Aztecs, you aren’t a fan of college basketball.
Yesterday was the perfect example of why they are so good. They traveled to New Mexico to play in an arena called “The Pit.” It’s a notorious place to play. They were down early- the starters were plagued by whistle-happy refs. With three of the starting five on the bench, the Aztecs roared back on a furious run which ultimately held on at New Mexico. The simple fact is that they have 8 legitimate starters in a league where most teams have 3. They get stronger as the game wears on and eventually own their opponents.
Is this team as good as the Fab 5? Probably not. We will ultimately find out in March. Before that they are hungry for a conference title, then trying to repeat as conference tournament champions.
If you get the chance, watch a home game on TV. (I’d say go to the game but I think all of the tickets are now gone!) What you will see will rival anything you will see at any of the big programs in the country. It’s loud, it’s festive, it’s fun. And it’s starting to look like an impossible place to play.
When I decided to buy season tickets to San Diego State I have to admit that I did it on a whim. In 2008, they were horrible. But they got a new coach and I figured that for less than $100 per seat, I couldn’t lose.
My hope has always been that my kids would learn to love football the same way I learned to love football… on Saturday’s with dad at the stadium. Last season was a bit rough. The only thing the kids liked about the games was spending some time with me and our trip to Rite Aid to load up on candy to take to the game. This year, with the team noticeably better, they’ve started to get into it a tad more.
Last night was a huge win for the program. But it was also a huge win for Paul becoming a football fan. For a big chunk of the last five minutes of the game Paul stood on the back of the seat in the row in front of us, shoulder to shoulder with me, screaming “Defense! Let’s go Aztecs! Defense! Oooooo!” (And stuff like that.)
When we scored, he joined in the chorus of high fives. When we recovered the onside kick, he shouted YES!
It was a cool bonding time for us.
Here’s a couple of videos I took on my phone from the beginning. (I’ve got kind of a meme going)
National Anthem (Ahem, that’s not me singing, that’s the guys in front of me)
Football team taking the field
The video above is from 619sports.net. They are local sports nuts who have created a name for themselves by doing a local sports blog. I had a similar idea to do this in Romeo but never got around to it. Kudos to them for creating something out of nothing.
My little football heart got broken last night. First, San Diego State gave up a touchdown with 50 seconds left to giveaway a victory to #25 Missouri. That would have been their best start in 30+ years. Then, a few hours later, Notre Dame gave up a silly trick play for a touchdown to lose to Michigan State.
In both cases, it was about finishing the game. Both teams were sloppy. In one game, a lack of tackling discipline cost them the game. In the other, being over-aggressive cost them an embarrassing lose and landed them on Sportscenter for all the wrong reasons.
For those of us who lead, both games were a powerful reminder for finishing.
In life, just like in football, your last play leaves a lasting memory. No one cares how well SDSU or Notre Dame played on Saturday. We’ll only remember the embarrassing finish.
Do you have a strategy for finishing a project well?