On Monday, my first phone call came in at about 8:10 AM.

Some of you probably know the type of morning I’m talking about.  The Monday morning that too often feels like a lit end of a match touching a slow-burning, corny-western movie fuse; hissing and sparking dramatically towards some unknown end.

I tried to state my name and the company I was supposed to be professionally representing, but my voice came out in a husky, strangled, croak.  I harrumphed and hacked, unceremoniously trying to yank my vocal chords out of their Fran-Drescher coma.  Finally, after a liberal helping of the “mute” button, I was able to finish the call and softly apologize to my boss for sounding like PJ Carlesimo in mid Spreewelling.

I approached my boss’ desk so that they would know I wasn’t the modern version of typhoid Mary, or some early forerunner for the Ebola epidemic.  Sitting down, I croaked out an explanation: You see, I squeaked.  I went to the game last night.  She nodded.  No explanation.  No extra beat spent wondering what sporting event had turned my voice into a falsetto trainwreck.  She knew.  You may already suspect.  There was a reason my abs were stiff and my hands were a little achy.

It was early March and my fanhood was showing.

Nebraska Basketball.

That’s the ‘why’ and the ‘who’.  The What, when, and where are a little more complex.  Nebraska basketball (*Author’s note: which I refuse to call by what I consider a dopey, power-couple-in-Hollywood amalgamation of Nebraska and basketball but so many do: Nebrasketball) as I’m sure a great many of you are aware of even in this football-centric state, has grown from downtrodden novelty act to headlining their very own, very unique, wholly fascinating show.  They’ve catapulted to stardom with all the rapidity of a YouTube sensation whose video goes viral, burning across our collective consciousness like a spark through kindling.

You see, I was there for the Wisconsin game.  I was there on “No Sit Sunday” or “the biggest game in years” or “the stunning upset of that other angry guy named Bo in the Big Ten Conference” or whatever in the blue blazes of hell you’d like to call it.  But I was there on that Sunday when that spark, that tinder, exploded into a full on, raging, blaze.

1256491_10100344535869612_959999037_n

I was there the night Nebraska imploded the decrepit ideology of the past; took their alleged ceiling and erupted it skyward.  I was there the night Tim Miles – that goofy basketball wizard who probably actually  likes talking about wizards – jumped into the shotgun seat of this once-rickety Wright-brothers-looking plane and flew up to new heights, looking to gun down the King Kong sized monkey that has set up shop for what feels like an eternity on the backs of Husker basketball faithful.

The point is this: Nebraska basketball is no longer on the fringes of sports talk in Nebraska.  They’ve scratched and clawed, won and won again, and selfie’d their way into the conversation.  On that day in March, my boss didn’t ask what game I was talking about.  Because she already knew.  That doesn’t happen in Nebraska.  Or, I should say, that didn’t used to happen in Nebraska.

Nebraska made the NCAA tournament, shortly after that stunning home victory in one of the most raucous sporting environments that I can recall, and suffered a tough loss at the hands of a long, athletic Baylor club.

Smarting.  Emotionally spent after an insane, reckless, heart-hammering thrill ride of a season.  Husker basketball fanatics felt like we’d just set up base camp at the foot of Mt. Everest and then a weather front blew in and canceled the entire trip; like we’d been halfway through the roller coaster ride, with the biggest drop yet straight ahead, and the ride had broken down.

But our eyes were no longer fixated on the ground in front of us.  For the first time in a very, very long time, we turned our gazes skyward.  Towards the mountaintop.  Our hands were still tossed in the air, ready for the ride to start up again.

Even though the abruptness of such a miraculous season ending was tough to stomach, almost like we were writing a great story and then the printer just ran out of ink during the last chapter, it still felt good.  There was a solid core of playmakers returning.  While Mike Peltz’s hair would undoubtedly be missed, his graduation was the only subtraction from that is worth mentioning from last year’s team.  The Huskers landed a prized transfer from Kansas, a recruiting class that appears to be ready to pay dividends fairly quickly, and return the Shepherd of Shot (*Author’s note: Terran Petteway), Disney (*Author’s note: Walt Pitchford. . .yes, I know I’m reaching, but maybe those 3’s he jacks up from long-range kind of have a similar arc to that rainbow over Disney’s castle?  And he’s magic?) and The Agent (of S.H.I.E.L.D.s) (*Author’s note: alright, alright.  I’m really reaching.  But that Petteway one is okay, right?) are all back and appear primed for another great year.

1911914_10100518681884602_7048433122641058295_n

The momentum, as they say, appears to be rolling.

So what happens now?  What happens when the pressure’s on and suddenly the Huskers find themselves ranked in pre-season polls and Tim Miles has “Coach of the Year” in front of his name in the NU media guide?  What happens when the Huskers won’t be Trojan-horsing their way into games but will be facing a fully prepared opponent in a fully tough Big Ten, night after night?

Does Tim Miles continue to mesmerize the home crowd?  Can this nerd-cocky, social media whiz continue maximizing talent, somehow blending himself into a wild sideline Molotov cocktail of dweebiness and complete and utter M-Fing swag (Author’s note: Swaggy T, anyone?), and continuing to evolve a program that was so far outside the bounds of relevancy at one point that they literally had an elderly women’s clogging team perform at halftime. . .for years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, the Huskers are one of the hottest tickets in town.  It’s a sudden program turnaround that makes the plot of Like Mike seem totally believable. (*Author’s note: A coach from Northern Colorado showing up and taking one of the most moribund college basketball programs in NCAA history to The Dance in his second year?  This story is firmly entrenched between Eddie and Air Bud on my Basketball Believability Index scale)I’m a firm believer that Miles is the real deal.  That Petteway is the gym rat everyone says he is and will return hungrier and more prepared than a year ago.  That Shavon Shields will continue to develop and every single guy from Benny Parker to Chris Harriman to dagger-in-the-heart-of-KU-basketball Ali Farokhmanesh is exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

The iron is red, scalding, hot.  We just need to strike.  I believe that Tim Miles and the Husker basketball team are about to drop the hammer.

 

I’m all in. I believe that this group, these coaches, and this group of foaming at the mouth, werewolf-howling basketball fans who have awoken from the tomb of utter ineptitude and have come crawling out of the grave of disinterest are fully ready to buy in.

It’s all happened so fast that the bandwagon is still loading up with fans.  Don’t hesitate now, Huskers.  There’s plenty of room to hop on board.

In fact: take my seat.

I won’t be sitting much this year anyway.

FIN

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s