This afternoon, my two boys (Ryan & Luke, 10 & 7) decided for the first time to sit and and actively watch an entire Arizona basketball game with me. They are usually so preoccupied with so many other things that they don’t last more than 10 minutes – but they sat and asked questions of me, cheered with me, and cared about Arizona winning for the ENTIRE game. I paused a ton to answer all their questions, it was my first time having my two boys care so much about something that really matters to their dad – and to be able to sit with me for well over two hours and take it all in. It was completely unexpected (I never asked them to do this), and it was glorious.
With every inconceivable Badger three made – we’d all yell “what?”. We wanted Kaminsky in foul trouble so bad – that with every whistle in which he was on the screen they’d ask “is that on Kaminsky?”. Both called every Arizona player by name as well as a few Badgers not even named Kaminsky 12 minutes into the game – reveling in the roller coaster ride of Elite 8 basketball. They both knew immediately Kaminsky “faked” a foul to get Zeus in foul trouble – even if the ref wasn’t smart enough to see it. We all cheered SO hard. Again, it was glorious.
Yet, we lost.
I ended that game with such a mixed bag of internalized emotion – the extent of which I have never felt before. Luke, my 7 year old, seeing TJ with 9 seconds left, hugged his mom hard while the tears streamed. Ryan, my 10 year old, didn’t say a word for 5 minutes – I could tell he was just trying to hold it together like I was. I BARELY held it together.
After a little time passed, after the UK & Notre Dame talk started on tv, my boys began to ask me why the Arizona players cried – why was it SO important to them even though Arizona will play again in November (I had told them early in the game whatever team lost would have their season and and wouldn’t start a new one until November). I had to explain how THAT group of guys would never get to play together again for their school for THAT coach. I had to explain how TJ McConnell had played his last game for a school and coach he loved, and that he would have to move on to play for someone else in the pros. I had to explain that most of the names they now somehow knew so well (so quickly) wouldn’t be back for Arizona – they would be moving on to play basketball for a living and for money. We ended the talk with me showing Allonzo Trier highlights to them, explaining that Arizona will have some new players to root for next season to root for along with some of the returnees (PJC is an early fav – they think it’s awesome he’s so short).
Today was so difficult for me – yet I know I experienced something on a personal level with my sons that we ALL will always remember and share. You always remember the first time you watched a whole game with your dad, you rooted hard, and you cried when the result didn’t go the way you had hoped. My first time was Georgetown/UNC championship in ’82 – I just decided I so badly wanted this small school to upset the big time program. I felt SO bad for Fred Brown when he made that unexplained pass right to Worthy that out of the blue the tears came. I remember vividly.
Today, my boys FELT it ALL with me. This was much bigger than Georgetown/UNC – my dad really didn’t care who won then, I just decided I cared. Today, my boys cared about this game more than anything because they knew it was important to their dad. I hugged and thanked my boys for caring so much and so hard with me. I am sad, but I’m going to claim MY joy from this shared experience with my sons. Now, when my sons and I celebrate that 2nd Arizona championship in the unforeseen future – it’ll be THAT much sweeter because of what we experienced today, together.