By winning the 2008 national championship last Monday, the Kansas University Jayhawk men’s basketball team provided me with an incomprehensible consolation victory.
As many of my readers know, the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre are my heart and soul. And when Brett Favre threw that interception in overtime against the eventual champion New York Giants, in the NFC title game last January, my heart fell. The pain has died down since, but not without Brett Favre’s teasing me with the possibility of coming out of retirement.
The victory by the Jayhawks lifted a huge cinder block off of my chest. I picked Kansas to win it all in my bracket, and I guess it would be silly to brag about it considering I pick Kansas to win it every year. I have to. If I don’t pick them and they win it, I would kill myself. You may be asking “Why Kansas?” I have two words: Kirk Hinrich.
From what began as a joke, Hinrich was an Iowan farm boy, and my friends and I found it weirdly amusing that his last name resembled the word “hircine,” which means goat-like, and this turned into a serious obsession when his supposed college-only talent translated into professional success. However, I cannot disregard that my love for Hinrich began when he kept dominating Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on NBA Live 2003 on my Xbox. My brother-in-law and I laughed for countless hours as we used Captain Kirk to take over games, and defeat my enraged little brother and his beloved Kobe Bryant consistently.
Hinrich is now a successful professional who is having a sub-par year this season. Keep in mind that he was a member of the USA basketball team, on the NBA All-Defensive team and is sponsored by Converse.
Just as Favre made me a Packers fan, Hinrich made me a Jayhawk fan.
Like I did with my Favre jersey in January, I donned my throwback No. 10 Hinrich KU jersey and was ready to watch the game. That’s where the series of parallels between the games began, and it freaked me out.
Both teams played solid first half’s, the Packers were leading by four and the Jayhawks by five. However, I began getting actual flashbacks to the Packers loss against the Giants toward the end of the game.
When Memphis freshman Derrick Rose scored 14 of his team’s 16 points at one point which put the Tigers up 60-51, with 2:12 left in regulation. This run brought horrid memories of the third quarter, where the Giants scored 14 points to go up 20-17, and took all the momentum from the Packers. I began to worry.
Kansas then did the smart thing, and started fouling Memphis. Memphis, one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country at an abysmal 59 percent, missed four of six free throws over the last 1:12. Though I was ecstatic over every miss, fear had struck within me.
With each miss, images of the two during the fourth quarter missing field goals by Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes resonated in my mind. Those field goals brought me hope, only to see those hopes shattered as Tynes converted the third goal in overtime to win the game. I was afraid similar hopes would be destroyed in this game. I refrained from feeling confident.
With 10.8 seconds left, Kansas’s Sherron Williams drove down the court and passed the ball to Mario Chalmers as his three-point attempt sailed into the net to tie the game at 63. A Memphis miss would then send the game into overtime, as a Tynes miss did.
At this point, I was yelling at every one of my friends who said Kansas had the game in its hands. I would not let anything jinx this game! I could not handle another loss by one of my favorite teams, especially in practically the same unfolding of events!
Kansas would go on to dominate overtime and win one of the greatest national championships in collegiate history 75-68. And I sipped every last ounce of joy after the win.
KU had not won a national title since the year of my birth, 1988. Kansas has been one of the most successful college basketball programs in history; going on a 20-year drought was pathetic. Kansas ranks third all-time in wins with 1,943 and has made 13 Final Four Appearances. It leads with 51 conference titles and has fourth best winning percent of all time at .712.
Like Green Bay, Kansas has only won three national titles (three Super Bowl victories in the Super Bowl era). Both are storied programs with rich histories. The Packers had a historic coach in the oft-quoted Vince Lombardi, whom the championship trophy is named after. Kansas had some successful coaches such as Coach Roy Williams, who took the Hinrich, led 2003 Jayhawks to NCAA finals. Both teams have been impressive on their home turfs as the Packers have only three playoff losses at Lambeau field since 1933, when the playoff format was instituted. From 1994 to 1998, KU won an astonishing 62 consecutive home games at Allen Fieldhouse, which was the longest such streak in the NCAA at the time.
Sure Favre is no longer on the Packers, and Hinrich graduated five years ago, but both still have specials places in their homes.
The Kansas victory was a special win for college basketball, and for me. I will enjoy it for years to come.
Stephen Beck, a former KU band member and diehard Jayhawk fan, put it best: “It’s about time we won a national championship. The man who invented basketball, James Naismith, was our first coach for God sakes. It was a great win … and I am going to watch the game again tonight.”
So am I, Steve. So am I.