There are so many emotions running through my body right now. Exhaustion is chief among them. I’m running on four hours of sleep, hotel coffee, and half a cinnamon bagel with yogurt and an apple. But also mixed in there is elation. And relief. And pure joy.
And I didn’t even get a chance to blog about the Baylor game yet. So this entry will focus on that day and that game.
After meeting my family in the hotel bar, the great walk to the Alamodome began. We had asked the bartenders about the directions to the arena, so we figured it would take less than fifteen minutes. I think that it’s safe to say our bartenders were trying to mess with us, because it took about twenty, stumbling around on the side of a Texas highway. It didn’t hit us until later in the game that the area above where we were walking was actually a pedestrian walkway, and that thousands of fans were making their way along with us, but at a totally different time and probably in a much easier fashion. I don’t mind saying it: I nearly died about fourteen separate times. Nobody knows how to jaywalk like my mom.
We arrived at the game in one piece, and I was pretty shocked at how many people from CT had made the trip. But then again, why should I be? I’m not exaggerating when I say that our fans are the most dedicated and devoted in the country, almost to the point of fanatical. It’s a great thing to see when the UCONN fans outnumber the Baylor contingent, and it’s a four hour plane ride from Connecticut and a three hour car trip from Waco. What a sight.
Once we got to the Alamodome, I stayed with Nonna while Mom got waters for the group. We had to wait at the top of the stairs while swarms of people made their way up to the bathrooms and concessions. Nonna curled close to me as numerous people stared, pointed, and even exclaimed “ARE YOU GENO’S MOTHER?!” It was pretty classic, although Nonna kind of doesn’t like all the attention. At one point, after smiling and nodding at the thirteenth gawker, she turned to me and whispered “What the hell are these people doing, staring at me? I don’t like this, Lysa.” I whispered back, “that’s the price you pay for being such a celeb, Non.”
As we were waiting, the Stanford/OK game was winding down. We had been on our little pilgrimage to the dome when i got a text message from my sister, exclaiming Oklahoma had cut the lead to four with 2 minutes remaining. I wanted to run to the arena and see the ending, but we got there with about twenty seconds left. I felt so bad for Oklahoma. I would’ve really liked to play Stacey’s team in the championship, as a sort of companion piece to our 2002 run. That would’ve made for great theatre. Of course, the end result was still pretty interesting. But that’s, like I said, for another blog.
We reached our seats in one piece, and that’s when the nerves kicked in. I always get a bit nervous for the semifinals, especially since the 2001 game when it all just slipped away in the second half. I’m constantly on edge because of that heartbreak, and I just wanted it so badly for our five seniors, it was driving me insane. Plus, I think Brittney Griner could literally murder me with one hand.
Thankfully, we came out in that first half and played lights out. I was jumping up and down, screaming, clapping, and watching Maya just blow the competition away. But as happy as I was for Maya, I was even happier for Tina. She completely disrupted Brittney Griner’s game to the point where, as I later found out, Griner begged Kim Mulkey to get her out of the game. Tina had quite simply worn her out. Another highlight of the first half for me was walking into the bathroom at one point and seeing Jamelle, Tamika, and Swin all at the same time. I didn’t get a chance to say hi to Swin but I shared a screaming hug with Tamika that I’m sure caused a lot of stares our way. And of course, every five people who came up to us to say hello simply had to touch Jenna’s baby bump. But thankfully, every single person who did it prefaced their action with “Is it okay if I…?”
I loved seeing the individual team stuff on the Jumbotron, particularly one in which Dad implored the entire Alamodome with shouts of “Husky fans! Come on! Get on your feet! Don’t leave me alone here!”
The second half was a bit dicey for all of us, especially that first five minutes. We kind of lost our composure and didn’t put the game away, and Baylor came out and just tore up our defense. Brittney’s move, a drop step layup, is effective, and around the third time she did it I got a bit worried. Then we found our footing thanks to Maya and Tina, and we turned it all around. When we go on runs, it is pretty impossible to stop us. That’s our trademark, and I think it will never be equaled by any other team.
One of the extreme highlights of the game wasn’t actually on the court, but came courtesy of the ‘fan cam’ used by ESPN. At one point during a TV timeout, the cameraman came over to our section and pointed the camera directly at Jenna. Had he been any closer, I think he would’ve seen her brain through her nose. Now, a normal person would have grinned and bore it, and just waved hi or done something. My sister’s reaction was to put her hands in front of her face, wave them like she was at a rave, and say over and over again, “NO! NO NO NO NO NO GET IT AWAY.” The camera man didn’t listen, and kept his lens square in her face. Finally, after about five minutes of Jenna’s flailing and shouting, he moved to another section. Thankfully they didn’t use the footage, or they would’ve thought Geno’s eldest is prone to rage blackouts.
I wish I could remember some of the things that my brother in law, Todd, was saying during the game. They were all absolutely hysterical. But my two favorites occurred in the second half. When Tina was called for a shooting foul far, far away from the basket, Todd stood up and yelled “Horrible call! She was running for the doors!” Then, as Maya releasing a a high-arcing floater, he threw his hands into the air and screamed “JORDAN!!!”
After the game (and waving to Dad as he walked off the court), I walked with my Mom back to the hotel on the actual pedestrian walkway instead of on the side of the road. It seemed to us like a mass exodus out of the Old Testament. I kept wondering aloud “Where’s Moses?!” After a short walk up the Riverwalk we happened upon the Hard Rock Cafe, where I managed to satiate my Lent sacrifice with a peanut butter and chocolate dessert shooter. If you haven’t had this thing, I urge you to seek out your nearest Hard Rock Cafe and eat it, pronto. Go right now, in fact. I also managed to finish off my sister’s ice cream as a sort of digestive.
I will write the National Championship game edition of my blog tomorrow. Too much detail and too much emotion to pack into one edition.
Except I will say this: Rebecca calling Dad’s satchel a ‘manpurse’ was the funniest thing ever…