Monday, March 23, 2009

NCAA Trip Tradition Continues ... With A Twist
A tradition of going to the NCAA men's basketball tournament began when I saw an advertisement on television for tickets. Hey -- going to a tournament site for the first and second round games sounded like fun. So, I bought three tickets to the 1996 tournament games that were held in Indianapolis. I asked my work buddy, Norm (left) to go, and he said that his son could go with us. We drove a couple of hours to the arena, then got a massive dose of NCAA basketball -- two sessions with two games each. Four college basketball games in one day. Damn. We drove home late since we had an off day between the next round of games -- the two second round games that would help determine the Sweet Sixteen.

We were rewarded with two outstanding memories: 1) Being in the stands for one of the great college basketball upsets of all time -- Princeton over defending champ UCLA in a first round game; and 2) Moving down into the Mississippi State cheering section and helping to cheer for the Bulldogs as they beat Princeton in the second round game. Unfortunately, the memories of 1996 are bittersweet for me as both Norm and his son have passed away.

However, 1996 started a tradition, and with the addition of work friends Mike and Gerry (and a few trips with fill-in Jack and one trip with co-worker Tom), we have gone to the tournament almost every year, going to arenas in Memphis, Nashville, Lexington, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, and taking side trips to places like Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Jack Daniels Distillery, Harrah's St. Louis, and a few places I would prefer not to mention lest my golden boy image be tarnished ...

This year, we opted not to travel to see games in person. Instead, Mike and I drove to Chicago to visit Gerry, who now lives there, and watched the games on television in his condo. The side trips were again great as we visited the Shedd Acquarium and the Volo Auto Museum. The auto museum featured 300 collector cars for sale including many muscle cars from the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's.

However, one thing we seemed to notice as we have gotten older is that the focus of the trips has changed. We used to go mostly for the basketball, but as the trips evolved, they really became more about the friendships and experiences. The games are still important, but spending a few days away with some old buddies -- the kind of trip where you can say and do what you want and not have to worry about things coming back to haunt you -- is gold, Jerry -- gold.

Next year -- maybe New Orleans?


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Wow, nice post.

1:07 PM  

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