Has your world ever been crushed like a fortress of toothpicks trampled by a herd of elephants? Has the belief system on which you based your sense of security and self-esteem ever been blown away like thistle down by a March wind? That’s the way I felt when the Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa.
One moment, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, spring beckoned with its promise of rebirth. The world was a just and goodly place. The Jayhawks were deep, invincible, No. 1. The next moment, they were writhing on the floor, sobbing. The second hand of the remorseless game clock passed over them like the scythe of the Grim Reaper. The Fat Lady bellowed her aria of doom. The Jayhawks were finished, humiliated. And I felt as if my source of oxygen had been suddenly cut off.
More than anything, I felt ashamed, betrayed. Being a Jayhawk fan was my calling card. It identified me as a winner. It put a spring in my step. Now I wore a huge sandwich board that read: Loser. I would be condemned to wander the Earth like an emaciated, hollow-eyed pariah. Wherever I went, crowds would gather to ridicule me and hurl abusive epithets: “Jayhawk fan, Jayhawk fan.” Choruses of “Northern Iowa, Northern Iowa” and “Farokhmenesh, Farokhmanesh” would torment my sleep. And the question would forever haunt me: Why? Why did they lose?
I have roamed the streets like Diogenes searching for an answer. I have pored over Internet blogs, sought insights from my Jayhawk fan support group. And I have found no one who can tell me why. Were they overrated? Had they no bedrock of competence? Was the grandiose spectacle in Allen Fieldhouse nothing but P.T. Barnum hype? Was the magic behind the curtain mere legerdemain, buttons and levers manipulated by some doddering Wizard of Oz?
Friends have tired to console me with a platitude: “It’s only a game.” Oh, thanks. That really helps. I suppose you could say that life is “only a game” and that when Death knocks on your door he greets you with a high five and invites you to out for a beer. Some have reminded me that the Jayhawks won it all in 2008. Right, and William the Conquerer won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. Life goes on, you say? Sure it does. Life with the dignity of a dung beetle or a nematode. There is no answer. And it isn’t fair. Whatever happened to tradition? Whatever happened to our civil rights?
Still, I have more perspective than Roy Williams, who compared his team’s poor season to the disaster that hit Haiti. But I take the loss as a personal failure. I’m left without a sense of purpose. I have nothing to show for my time on Earth. By the way, didn’t Roy used to spit in the river for good luck? Perhaps neglect of that ritual has angered the basketball gods. Perhaps we need to appease them with human sacrifices — on a volunteer basis, of course.
Another troubling thought: President Obama picked the Jayhawks to win it all. What does that tell you about his judgment? Should a man capable of such a blunder be trusted to reform health care or direct foreign policy? He won’t get my vote next time unless he rescinds the Northern Iowa game, declares KU the winner of the tournament and passes a bill declaring the Jayhawks No. 1 in perpetuity.
Sign in front of a Lawrence church: “What will it take to bring you to your knees?” Easy. Jayhawks 67, Northern Iowa 69. What more is there to say? Must I utter the forlorn of the Brooklyn Dodgers fans, “Wait until next year?” This albatross I’m wearing around my neck is going to be pretty rank by then.