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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kansas Weekend

Not often have a break in the middle of basketball season. But after two weekends in a row with 2 games on Saturdays, our schedule gave the girls and the coaches the weekend to freshen up for the stretch run. When I saw this coming over a month ago, I made some calls. Everything worked out and we were headed to KU.

So Friday evening, my brother Mark, Allen, and myself headed to Lawrence Kansas. We picked up nephew Evan in Osceola, Iowa. From there we headed down to KU. The total trip took us about 6 1/2 hours. We arrived in Lawrence at 1:45am. After a short rest, we were up and headed to the University Bookstore on campus. I cannot say how much we spent for fear my wife will find out. Let's just say we were good customers.

On advice of our hotel clerk, we headed to the Phoggy Dog for lunch. He told us we could catch a shuttle to the game. The Phoggy Dog was not open yet so we went next door. We found out this was the restaurant with the shuttle but our waitress told us if we were going early to just drive and park in a neighborhood. After her lunch, we took her advice. We knew arriving over 2 hours before the game we would be one of the first there. But as we got within a mile, we saw Kansas fan after Kansas fan.

Our tickets had been left at a Will Call window. We got to our seats about 1:15pm for the 3:00pm tip off. Allen Field House holds just over 16,000 fans. At 1:15pm, I would estimate there were 4,000 students in their seats and probably another 4,000 adults in their seats. Yes, over 90 minutes before tip it was half full. I have never seen anything like it.

Our seats were in row one right behind the Kansas bench. Except for us, it was a celebrity section. Behind us two rows was Johnny Erickson, who actually coached in the 1960's at Wisconsin. Down to the left was Charley Weiss (2 seats). Four people to our right was Wayne Simien. Wayne graduated from Kansas in 2005 and his #23 is retired. Sitting next to my brother was Eric Chenowith, who played until 2001 for Kansas and was drafted 42nd in 2001 by the Knicks.

I had always wanted to go to a Kansas game at Allen Fieldhouse. One reason is my mother's college roommate later married a KU prof so we had visited Lawrence as children. And everyone told stories about how great the KU fans are.

We quickly found out what an atmosphere Allen Fieldhouse is. I love the Badgers and love the Badger crowds, but KU students are the best and loudest fans I have ever heard. They started cheering 30 minutes before the game and did not stop until after the game was over. And the cheering at Allen FH is NEVER about the students or fans drawing attention to themselves. They are completely and totally into the game. It is obvious they are there for one reason- do whatever they can for 2+ hours to make it more likely the Jayhawks win.

I have seen many of the intro videos teams have- the Bulls, the White Sox, the Badgers, etc. KU video intro before starting lineups is over powering. Bill Self was within 20 feet of us, and it was obvious it effected him emotionally also. And those fans- they reacted louder to clips in the video than most fans do to live action. When Chalmers hits the three for the NCAA title, you would have thought it was live.

For Illinois fans who still don't get why Self left for Kansas, they should go to Allen one time and they will understand. I have already made it clear it is the loudest place I have been. But as far as sound level, the loudest moment of the afternoon was right after the Jayhawks ran onto the floor. The students erupted when the team arrived so it was already loud. But then came the roar of the day-- yes, it was saved for when Bill Self walked out of the tunnel. It might as well have been the Beetles entering the arena.

Of the different videos on the message board during time outs, my favorite and the favorite of the students was for freshmen Perry Ellis. The video explained Perry led his team to four Kansas HS titles. Then it said Perry's sister played at Memphis. The students booed loudly. Then it said, "Memphis wanted Perry." It paused and added,"Memphis wanted a national title too." Then it finished with, "Memphis got neither."  (Memphis lost to KU in the title game.) The crowd roared.

We were close enough to the bench, we could hear Self's comments as he coached, motivated, and helped the officials. Listening to him, his insight, his humor, and his passion- it is clear why he wins.

With a minute to go, the students started the customary chant- "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU." It is almost haunting how it just goes on and on.

As we walked away from Allen Fieldhouse, and then in the evening at supper, the four of us could not stop talking about the events of the day. It was not just a good weekend- it was a GREAT weekend. I will be forever grateful to my friend for his efforts and his kindness.
Above the students hang the 5 championship banners-
 along with a warning to visitors.

Coach Self delivering instructions.

Headed into "the Phog."

A view down on Allen FH.

A clip from ESPN

James Naismith's team w/ some add ons.

The boys in their seats.

At the Phoggy Dog.

During intros

#23 Ben McElmore- tabbed as #1 frosh in America!

Students disinterested in OU lineups.

Coach Self subbing.

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