The Beginning of a Passion…College Basketball

ImageBy: SCF Sports Write Ashley

When I was a freshman in high school, I knew little about college sports. At this point in my life I was mostly concerned with the NFL and was only starting to enjoy college football. I really had no interest in basketball at all, let alone the unknowns of the college ranks. Then I realized if I wanted to make friends with the kids from the other middle schools in my town, I had better learn about college basketball, and fast. I started to pay attention to the basketball segment on Sports Center at night to see if they highlighted anything I had overheard that day during school. I began to casually involve myself in conversations here and there when I was sure I wouldn’t look like a shmuck for messing any detail up. Over time I began to feel confident in my growing college basketball IQ. This is totally embarrassing to admit, and realizing that these guys might be reading this blog right now is both scary and liberating, but I’m continuing on

because I promised I would always be honest…

Over the course of those few weeks I had began to pay extra attention to the University of North Carolina because that seemed to be the favorite among the group I was trying to befriend.  Watching Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson were not reasons to turn away, might I add. Man were they fun to watch play! When the calendar turned to March and the NCAA tournament was fast approaching, however, conversations turned from friendly fan warfare to talks about money collections and handing in your brackets. I decided I wanted in. Even though I knew next to nothing about compared to these boys who had played basketball most of their lives, I figured what was $10 to prove that at least I was trying? So I handed in my bracket with only a certain level of confidence, as everyone who isn’t named Joe Lundari does, and hoped that UNC would win the national title. It wasn’t a difficult call to make so I didn’t win a lot of money out of that bracket challenge, but I felt I had earned some respect and that was my goal.

Now fast forward to my senior year of high school (2008-2009) and I am a full blown North Carolina fan. I have a Hansbrough Jersey, the Jordan sneakers to match, and every nationally televised game written in the same planner where I was keeping track of college visits and midterm exam schedules. If the Heels were on TV, my family knew not to disturb me. Over

the course of my high school years, I had turned into just as passionate of a college basketball fan as I was a New York Giants fan. This year when March Madness rolled around, I was ready. This time around I did two brackets, one of outcomes that I researched and statistically figured would happen, and the other of outcomes I wanted to happen based on any feel good story that surrounded a team, cool uniforms, underdogs, etc. I was confident in my picks my senior year of high school and while some of the guys I befriended our freshman year knew that I had an idea of what I was talking about, there were others in the pool that laughed when they found out I was in it to win it. At the end of every tournament game day there would be texts and Facebook messages to find out who was in the lead and at school the taunting of whoever made a bad pick was entertaining to be a part of.

I don’t remember exactly how the point system worked out, only that I needed the University of Connecticut to win in the Elite 8 (which they did) but not make it to the national championship game (they didn’t). The next thing I knew, I had won. I didn’t even need the championship game to be played, and had won the bracket challenge. I’ll never forget being at a family party and getting that text message from the boy holding everyone’s money letting me know. It was insanity. Of course a lot of people chose University of North Carolina to win it all, but the way I guessed the journey of the other teams was better than anyone else. Best. Feeling. Ever. Until of course I saw the looks on the faces of the boys involved in the pool who thought I didn’t know what I was doing when I filled out my bracket as I collected my money, then I lived a new Best. Feeling. Ever.

I suppose the moral of this story, how a girl from New Jersey ends up a die-hard UNC TarHeels fan, and falls in love with college basketball in the process, is to never doubt someone’s knowledge of subject simply because stereotypically they shouldn’t. Yes, the entry into my college basketball passion was a superficial one, but once I was in, I was, and still am, all in. I have learned to tone it down in recent years, having roommates will force a person to do that. To this day though, the emotion that comes with certain games or intriguing match ups cannot be suppressed.

So as the Sweet 16 kicks off this weekend, sick back and enjoy the ride. No need to worry about your bracket, Lehigh took care of that for you. Remember that these are 18-23 year old young men out there playing. As much as you think you’re a die-hard basketball fan, these players, that we bet on and criticize after every possession, love it even more. If they didn’t, why would they continue to play? Or even more importantly, put up with us?


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