I can remember it like it was yesterday. But, in fact, it was exactly one year ago today. My favorite college basketball team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, had been going through a stretch of tough games. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they had been going through a stretch of tough decades. The Gophers haven't really been consistently good since the 1970s. Sure, there have been a handful of years that they finished in the top half of the Big Ten Conference standings, and they made the too-good-to-be-true-and-in-fact-wasn't-true-because-they-were-cheating run to the Final Four back in 1997, but overall the team has been stuck in mediocrity for a long time.
Still, they are my favorite college team, and every fall I get excited to watch them, and every winter they break my heart. It's an odd relationship we have, the Gophers and me. You would think at some point I would get tired of taking them back time after time, but I know, deep in my heart, they will reward my dedication with a National Championship. To be honest, I'd be happy if they won a Big Ten title.
Last year, it had been more of the same. I came into the season with high hopes. The Gophers fueled my emotions by winning 12 of their first 13 games of the season. But then it happened, like it always does. The Big Ten season started, the Gophers lost their first 4 conference games, and went on to finish the regular season with a 19-14 record. Despite an exciting win against highly-ranked Indiana, their record was not nearly good enough to get into the NCAA tournament. Oh well.
They were, however, awarded a berth into the ugly stepsister of college basketball tournaments, the National Invitation Tournament, or NIT. Although not nearly as exciting as the NCAA tourney, at least the season wasn't over, and maybe, if I was lucky, I would be able to watch my beloved Gophers play again on ESPN, if I happened to be somewhere that had ESPN, unlike our house. Without cable, I hadn't actually watched many of their games all season. But, maybe I would get another chance.
I wasn't able to watch the Gophers' first game of the tournament, against LaSalle, which they won. But I was fortunate enough to find myself in front of a TV to watch their second game, against the highly touted University of Miami Hurricanes. It was a hotly contested game, with both teams playing their hearts out. Neither team wanted their season to end, and they played like it. OK, it really only seemed like the Gophers didn't want their season to end. The Hurricanes seemed fine with that, as they went down meekly in defeat to my Gophers by a score of 78-60. My team was finally reciprocating my love, as they began to play like they meant it. It was a great night, watching my favorite team play as well as they had all season. I will never forget that night.
It seems like something else fun happened that night, too...Oh yeah, that was the same night the Baby was born! I knew there was something else going on in the room!