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Posted April 1, 2002

My Time at the Final Four

One of my goals in life has been accomplished. I attended the Final Four.

And not just any Final Four, but a Final Four where my beloved Kansas Jayhawks would be playing for a chance at their first national championship since 1988.

In fact, the only returning team in 2002’s version of the “Greatest Spectacle In Sports” was the Maryland Terrapins. You know, Fear The Turtle? KU’s last appearance was in 1993. Indiana? In 1992 when it lost to Duke. And Oklahoma? In 1988 when those Sooners fell to the Danny Manning-led Kansas squad.

There was no way I was going to miss out on the festivities of this Final Four since it was in Atlanta, a mere 2-1/2 hour drive away, even if I could not attend the games. Friday I drove down to meet up with a friend and to attend open practice at the Georgia Dome where KU was scheduled to be on the floor at 1:00. There must have been 10,000 people there just for the practices.

From there it was just a short stroll to the Georgia World Congress Center where NCAA Hoops City was taking place. I got ripped off on some Around The World shots from 3-point land as my shot would look good 90% of the way to the basket and then wouldn’t fall. Kind of like Kansas, eh? I got a Gillette T-shirt. I was able to get my picture taken with Ian Naismith, grandson of James Naismith, the founder of the game of basketball. Tim Brando of CBS Sports was also more than willing to let me tower next to him for a photo-op as well.

That’s just a warm-up. I was interviewed for a few minutes on Atlanta’s 680 The Fan because I happened to be a Kansas fan wearing a #11 Kansas Jersey and I was standing nearby. They waved me in where they inundated me with questions about the next day’s game and I gave them some answers that I can’t seem to recall at the moment. I’ve discovered that the two hosts were Buck Belue and John Kincade but these dudes were using only their first names in tones that assumed I had a clue as to who they were. So for the few hundred who listen to the station in a city of 4.1 million, I was king for five minutes. I got another shirt, too.

I took a subway ride on MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) to the Lenox Mall, conveniently attached to the Jayhawks’ hotel, which was literally crawling with Kansas fans. (I caught sight of Juan Dixon cruising around, which is what he did to the Jayhawks with his 33 points.) Just across the street, Dick Vitale was yakking it up on stage and throwing mini basketballs to the crowed. However, as soon as he started dancing, I knew it was time to depart.

After overcoming high speeds, rain, and sleep deprivation, I made it home safely, only to go back on Saturday. The reason? I had tickets, baby. My source came through for me. Sure, they were over the listed price and they were located in the nosebleed section on the opposite side of the stadium. But it was worth it. The roar of the crowd (particularly from the Indiana fans who represented very well), the playing of the national anthem, the player introductions. So much better than watching on TV.

I only wish I could have gone back Monday because I know Kansas would have won. The consensus among all the media is that the Kansas/Maryland match up would win the title, no matter who either team would be playing. In this case it is the magical Indiana Hoosiers and even if they do not win, they have made a fantastic run that has made the entire Hoosier state come to a standstill, unless you’re a Notre Dame fan.

Like the Hoosiers and the other three teams, the Final Four is an experience I will long not forget. I hope to be able to attend another one in the future, but this time with Kansas winning.

Kedric Webster is a former sports writer and current student of Biblical studies at Bryan College. Any responses to his articles may be sent to jacqueshock@themail.com.

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Past columns

11/27/01: Next few days loom large for Gators, Hurricanes