Too often I get caught up in the minutae of covering the NCAA tournament. I sit and look at our list of stories we have to cut, shows we have to be in and also the blogs and web stories we need to write. I get so caught up in stressing about what I have to do that I forget why I want to do this.
We have a crew of 8 people here, 8! Grant and Greg are covering Kansas State, Brian and I have Kansas, Anne and Jason are the news crew, Rob is running the satellite truck and Clint is here for still photos and web stories. Of all 8 of us, Clint is the only one who is covering this for the first time.
When I saw his face the second he got his credential notice to the look in his eyes when I saw him in the Kansas locker room interviewing players and getting photos of them, I finally remembered why I'm here. The best part of my day is the game itself; watching elite athletes compete against each other in a tournament to decide who is top dog. Watching Clint light up when he talked about sitting down next to Ben McLemore and chatting with Jeff Withey it reminded me that I am a seriously lucky person.
I think Kansas feels the same way once they get to the tournament. Every team realizes that this is a special thing but I think Kansas players just get it. Kansas is in this tournament for the 24th straight time which is the longest active streak in the country. That's not luck, that's not happenstance, that's realizing why you want to be there. That's looking at the guy who is getting his first ever shot at being there and reminding yourself that you had that feeling once, too.
How serious are these guys? Elijah Johnson told me today that his phone is in airplane mode, no one can get in touch with him. Listening to his advice, McLemore put his phone on 'do not disturb' so only his mom and other close family can get him. Kevin Young doesn't play video games, he messes with a Rubik's cube. He started messing with the multi-colored cube when he lived in California because it was an easy way to stay out of trouble. By the time I talked to him Thursday afternoon he had already completed the cube 4 times. He says that the fastest he's ever completed it is 2 minutes. I'm 28 years old and I don't think I've ever once completed a Rubik's cube.
It's no secret that coach Bill Self greatly dislikes the late game. It's just a weird way to be 'rewarded' with a number 1 seed, especially since they got the late game with the number 2 seed last year. But Johnson had an interesting take on the late game. He said that it's an 'eye opener' because you watch all the games going on Thursday and most of the day Friday and you finally let it all sink in that this is tournament time. This is win or go home time.
Win or go home, that goes for the media too. That goes for my buddy Clint who is here for the first time. So do I root for Kansas to win because it's Kansas? No way, absolutely not. I root for Kansas to win so Clint can continue to experience the feeling of covering a tournament like this. I root for Kansas to win so I can constantly look at the excitement and awe in Clint's face and remember why I love what I do.