March brings out the best and worst in fans, and the Elite 8 game that I shared with my son, did just that.
It is no secret that I am a college basketball fan. I can sit in my man cave and watch games night in and night out.
You can imagine the excitement that March brings as the NCAA Basketball Tournament is in full swing. This was the first year that I asked my oldest if he wanted to fill out a bracket, and sure enough, he did.
Watching him fill his bracket out, reminded me of my youth when I filled out mine. I might not have known who some of these teams were or how good they were, but I still filled out a bracket. Year in and year out, I would pen my beloved Kansas Jayhawks from Round 1 all the way to the championship game, and on most years, I would have them win it all.
There is just something about the tournament that always fascinated me. I would watch on TV as major upsets busted my bracket and I would listen on the radio in a school bus on our way back from an early-season baseball game as Syracuse would beat KU in the championship game in 2003.
Ever since I was a kid, attending even just the opening round of the NCAA Tournament has always been on my bucket list. In 2017 though, at 32 I was finally able to cross that item off my bucket list. Not only was I able to cross it off my list, but I was able to share the experience with my son who has just started to enjoy college basketball.
As we reached our seats in Section 218 of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, our hopes were high. Both of us wearing our KU gear to support our team, along with nearly 18,000 others. With each passing minute to game time, our hopes stepped that much higher. Just two days prior we had watched the Jayhawks play what felt like the best game of their season beating Purdue in the Sweet 16.
The ball was tipped, and our hopes began to come crashing down. Oregon was in complete control of the game. We were holding out hope that at some point KU would go on one of their epic 18-0 runs and make this a game.
That was not the case, and in fact, KU was down by 11 at the half, and William was upset. This wasn’t how he wanted his first KU game to go. This wasn’t how I thought my first NCAA Tournament game would go. But none the less we ventured back up to the concession stand to grab some candy that we hoped we would use as confetti when KU did come back.
As the second half started, our hopes and dreams of a Midwest Regional Championship were crushed as quickly as it was in the first half. Kansas was getting outplayed. Oregon wanted to win, and they were proving it up and down the floor.
It was then that William started to get even more upset. He sat in his seat arms folding, pouting. This reminded me of how I was in my early to mid-20s. A passionate fan who wanted to see nothing more than the Kansas Jayhawks win it all. But there is something about being a dad, which changes a man, both as a person and a sports fan.
It was time for some #realstrength teachable moments. Leaning into his ear, I said something that ten years ago I thought I would never say, “It’s ok if we lose, what matters is we lose with pride, and we don’t get upset over it. Oregon wants this more than KU does and we need to respect how they are playing right now.”
The next morning, the #realstrength teachable moments didn’t end. I sat down to talk to him a bit about what happened the night before. He remembered the Oregon fans behind us who were poking fun at the Jayhawks as they were behind. I told him that win or lose we don’t brag or boast or complain or poke fun of the other team. And in the case of the fans behind us, we don’t cuss either.
I reminded him that Oregon clearly played better than KU and unfortunately we can not win every game. With every loss, it makes the next win that much sweeter. Whether we win or lose, we do so with pride and class.
March brings out the best and worst in fans, and the Elite 8 game that I shared with my son, did just that. For a dad who hopes that his love of sports is passed down to his sons, the best and worst of March can bring along with it many teachable moments.
What teachable moments have you had with your children during the NCAA Basketball Tournament?
Disclosure: Dove Men+Care and City Dads Group did provide me with tickets to see the Midwest Regional Final in Kansas City and encourage you to sign their Real Strength Manifesto; however the #realstrength moments shared in this post are my own.