Inspiration Friday (NCAA Tournament Edition)

The last time the University of Michigan went to the NCAA Tournament was in 1998.

When this basketball season started, my husband and I were just looking to see an improvement in the team, some positive change from the level of suckatude of which we had become accustomed. We got more than a positive change; we got the first tournament bid the program has seen in 10 years. That was enough. If Michigan had gone down in flames, crushed by the incessant pressure of Clemson’s full court press, it would have been fine. Just getting in, just having Michigan be a part of the big dance was enough for us.

Last night, as Dan and I sat alone at a bar in Fells Point, far away from all of our college friends, but dressed proudly in our Maize ‘n’ Blue, I thought back to the basketball games we sat through during our time at Michigan. Being a part of the “Maize Rage” student section meant standing for the entire game. It meant jumping up and down whenever our team was on defense. There was one time when I had to work later than I’d intended and had rushed home to meet Dan, grab my ticket and race down to Crisler. I dropped off my book bag, but foolishly forgot to change my shoes. Roughly two hours of jumping up and down in high heeled boots, only to watch your team lose a game that they had every shot at winning, is quite frankly the epitome of adding insult to injury. I was sore. I was mad. But I wasn’t all that surprised.

As Michigan’s 16 point lead quickly slipped away in the final minutes of last night’s game, I turned to look at Dan. His hand was clenched into a fist and pressed tight against his mouth. He was slumped forward in his seat. “This can’t be happening,” I said, and he only blinked. We kept turning the ball over. They kept hitting threes. “We’re going to lose,” I couldn’t keep myself from thinking and I threw my head back in exasperation, whacking it against the edge of the table behind me. I was sore. I was mad. And unfortunately, I wasn’t all that surprised.

When Clemson’s final shot of the game–the shot that could tie it–soared through the air and missed the glass, missed the rim, missed the net and came down in the arms of a Michigan player, Dan jumped up from his seat and I was right behind him.

Now Michigan moves on to play Oklahoma, a game I’m fairly certain we’ll lose in a brutal fashion. But that’s okay, because it was enough just to win in this first round game. Enough just to know that our basketball team left the ships to burn.

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