Well, last night was a rollercoaster of emotions. Unfortunately the the Red Raiders came up just a bit short in their quest to become National Champions. It was an incredible game! Both teams played their hearts out. Instead of dissecting the game from an analytical perspective, or going over the multiple officiating blunders that will forever drive me crazy, Im going to try to put into words how grateful I am that I got to see my Red Raiders play on the worlds biggest stage. And why, even after a heartbreaking night, sports prove to be mankind’s greatest discovery…
Everyone has hobbies. We all need something in life to help us escape from the day to day grind and the typical routines in our lives. Some people immerse themselves into stories, whether its through books, movies, or TV shows. Others write and play music. Some people can put headphones on, go for a run, and completely forget about their problems for as long as they’re trying to reach that finish line. One of, if not the most popular “hobbies” in this world is being a sports fan. Everyone has a team. Even if you’re just a casual fan, you have a team. Why? Because everyone is from somewhere. Even those that aren’t heavily invested into sports can find some rooting interest because they have pride in the place they are from. Some of us, however, take it a bit more serious. Maybe more serious than we should at times. But it’s worth it. Why? Because when sports is more than just a “hobby,” it shows you all the best parts of humanity.
I am, admittedly, too invested in sports. While my identity ultimately lies in my faith, I can’t describe who I am without at least mentioning sports, basketball in particular. I spend night after night on the edge of my seat watching my teams try to pull out victories. My family, while we are currently spread all over the great state of Texas, has always called Houston “home” (40 minutes south of Houston, to be specific). That’s why I will forever rep the Rockets, Astros, and Texans. I didn’t choose those teams, they were passed on to me. As for Texas Tech, my devout dedication for this school isn’t as easy to explain. I am not a Texas Tech student/alumni. I could be, I did apply to Tech and was accepted. But I opted for a different path that made more sense for the situation I was in at the time. I’m not a native of Lubbock, or even west Texas… So why was I bordering on tears less than 24 hours ago as I watched a National Championship slip through Chris Beard and his team’s fingers? Well, I’m not sure I can give a definitive answer. Maybe its because my earliest memories are in Lubbock when I lived there briefly as a small child. That’s when my dad was beginning to support the Red Raiders, so I naturally wanted to cheer for whoever he was cheering for. All I know is that for as long as I can remember, Tech has been my team. I think there is something about the weirdness of Texas Tech and Lubbock that I have always sort of identified with. Lubbock is certainly it’s own place, and I think most who know me would agree that I am my own person. I like to be different. I grew up with a brother that is a die hard UT fan and most of my friends were Aggie fans. I had to be different and choose that weird school out in the middle of nowhere with the quirky football coach that scores 50 points a game. They throw tortillas, and nobody really knows why! I freakin’ love how weird that is.
This may seem off topic so far, but its not and here’s why…
I woke up yesterday morning knowing that the outcome of a game, involving a team from a school that I have no actual relation to, was going to have a profound impact on the next few months (at least) of my life. If they win, I would cry tears of joy alongside my father. I would get a phone call from my brother who would be celebrating right with us, despite the fact that he’s a UT fan. It would be a moment that I would cherish for my entire life. If they lose, I will be, like really upset… for a really long time! I get it, thats crazy! But that’s sports! And it’s real… As I type this, I have Sports Center on and every time I see Kyle Guy celebrating his National Title I have to fight the urge to throw my remote through the television! What other “hobby” can do this!? This is why being a sports fan is unlike anything else offered by humanity. And you can double that for the people who are actually involved in the game.
Full disclosure, Im biased. But I believe playing sports teaches young people twice as much as they can learn in a classroom. It teaches hard work, how to work with others, what it means to have goals and work towards achieving those goals, and how to act after achieving or failing to reach those goals. All practices that are invaluable in the real world. This is truest at the high school level, but it’s evident at the college level as well. What is really cool (at least I think its cool) is that at the college level, fans get to see these life lessons take effect into the players lives as they go through their college careers. And watching this Texas Tech basketball team this year has been an absolute joy. Lead by Chris Beard, they have shown how to use these life lessons on the basketball court, and even in defeat, they reminded me why I love sports so much.
Take this short clip for example…
What you have here is 3 young men, all seniors and none of whom are likely to play at the next level, consoling each other after the most crushing defeat they’ve probably ever gone through. This is what coaches are talking about when they say they’re trying to turn these kids into men. This is love, man. This is brothers being there for each other when they need each other the most. When I say “sports can show you the best of humanity” this is what I am talking about.
So to the 2019 Texas Tech Red Raider basketball team, I say thank you! Thank you for showing the best that sports has to offer. At your highs and your lows, you reminded my why I love this silly game of basketball so much.
Thank you Norense Odiase!
This kid committed to basketball program that was in disarray! He’s the last guy remaining from the recruiting class that turned this program around. His career was full of obstacles, injuries, coaching changes, and sometimes an undefined role. He stuck it out, worked his tail off, and finished his career with two clutch free throws in the National Championship game!
Thank you Tariq Owens, you absolute savage!
I cant say that I have ever seen a college athlete lay it out on the line the way this kid did this weekend in the final four. Throwing his body around, sacrificing himself, and flying through the air blocking shots left and right. Texas Tech had a major need down low after Zach Smith graduated, and Owens, who transferred to Tech for his final season, proved to be the perfect fit.
Thank you Brandone Francis!
You saw this kids character in the video above. What that video doesn’t show is his journey to this point. After transferring from Florida after a redshirt freshman year, it took Francis some time to adjust. He has admitted that he wasn’t doing the right things, there was a time when it was unclear if he’d remain on the team. But he showed these past two seasons how much he’s grown. He became one of the leaders of this team. And played his butt off in the Final Four.
Thank you Matt Mooney!
Another young man that took a risk for his final year of eligibility. He transferred in from South Dakota and played a leading role in getting this team to the Championship game. His defense all season long was incredible. And his offensive performance against Michigan State in the Semi final game is something that Tech fans will never forget.
Thank you Jarrett Culver!
Who says Lubbock doesn’t have talent!? Culver might be the best athlete to ever come out of Lubbock. And he’ll no doubt go down as one of, if not the best basketball player to ever sport the double T. After losing so many contributors from an Elite 8 team, Culver stepped up and became the Big12 player of the year. Lead his team to a Big12 title and a trip to the Natty. He’ll be a lottery pick come July.
Thank you to the guys that will be back next year, Davide Morreti, Kyler Edwards, and Deshawn Corprew.
These young players were so much fun to watch all season. Morreti proved to be the X-factor for this team. His elite defense and 3 point shooting complimented Mooney and Culver perfectly. Edwards showed that he has the potential to be an elite scorer in the Big12. I can’t wait to see these guys running the backcourt next season. And Corprew made a habit of hitting timely 3’s all season long, it will be fun to see him in a larger role next year.
And lastly, Thank you Coach Beard!
This man is the best coach in college basketball, if you question me I swear on my future hypothetical children I will fight you! He hasn’t simply made Texas Tech relevant, he has made them elite. Because of him, as well as the players mentioned above, this team was 12 seconds away from cutting down the nets. And because of him, I firmly believe they’ll have another chance at this sooner or later.
So thank you to the National Runner-Up Texas Tech Red Raiders for reminding me how awesome sports are by providing great joy in victory, and the best of humanity in defeat.
GunsUp as always, but a little higher today!