When I was younger, I’d deal with a Final Four loss by rolling around in a hotel bed, packing my clothes for the depressing flight the next day, and uncontrollably sobbing.
Now, I’m 26, and I just drink. EASY fix.*
*I am a 26 year old woman. If you have a problem with my jokes about alcohol, please take it up with my mother, who laughed when I texted her about all of the wine in my body the night of the Notre Dame game. I go through a pound of kale a week and I do yoga. Leave me my wine, please.
Last year this week, when I got home from Indianapolis, I remember thinking to myself “Denver will be a cool city. They’ll have fun.”
At that point, I had gotten my acceptance letter into graduate school for a Masters in English: Literature. I wasn’t quite sure what my career path would be, but I knew one thing was for sure – there was no way I’d be going to the Final Four. Not a chance. I would be teaching as well as taking classes, and there would be no way of knowing when my classes would be until the spring semester came down the pike.
I’d be at home, watching the games on TV.
Which isn’t a bad thing at all. I’ve stayed home from the Final Four before. The first Final Four we got to was New Orleans, in 1991. I was five, almost six. I stayed home, obviously. The second Final Four I excused myself from was once again New Orleans, in 2004. I watched it from the Jumbotrons in Gampel Pavilion and screamed my head off with about 3,000 other fans, eager to see us match the men for a National Championship. When we won, my best friend and I immediately booked it back to the dorms to avoid the major rioting that would no doubt occur, ordered pizza, and watched post-game coverage.
I recognize that all of these, were I Tweeting, could be categorized under the hashtag #problemsnobodyelsehas, or what friends like to hashtag #awesomeproblems. They are indeed awesome, I will grant you that. Side Note: I return to the Tweets in two days. CAN. YOU. HANDLE. IT.
I’ve never been at home from the Final Four when the trip has ended in a loss. At least, not one I can remember. I remember having to stay home from New Orleans in ’91 but the actual loss doesn’t register to me at all. I do remember feeling a bit mad when Tonya Cardoza came to coach for my Dad in 1994, because she was on the team that beat us in that tournament. But forgive and forget, eh? 😉
I skipped out on going to Denver in favor of having more time to grade and study. Also, I teach Monday/Wednesday, so there was no way I could cancel both classes in a week. I instead spent the weekend working and practicing at my yoga studio, reading Hunger Games (I know, I’m late to the party. Don’t care. Team Peeta.) and getting told my hair resembled everyone from Michelle Williams to Julia Roberts’ Tinker Bell in Hook. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a bit nervous, but not in the way I have been in Final Fours previously. In San Antonio I was a shaking, uncontrollable mess for both games. Perhaps I just have too many other things going on in my life to make this event as palpable? Not sure.
Sunday night we headed to a friends’ house for a Game of Thrones watch party. The show started at 9, so we’d have plenty of time to watch the game beforehand. It was actually a great plan, for as a friend pointed out, “If you win, you celebrate watching the show. If you lose, you’ll be cheered up watching the show.”
When the game started people kept coming into the kitchen to give me updates. What? You thought I’d watch
? You all know me better than that. This is this night my friends saw the “Ally, the freakshow who hides and tries not to vomit” side of me. Hell, I was hiding in the bathroom prolonging a panic attack when we beat Louisville by 30 in 2009’s Final Four, so needless to say, whenever this
game twisted on itself I was in spasms. When I heard word we were going into overtime, I crumpled to the floor and ordered someone, anyone, to refill my wineglass. Keep in mind, I was laughing as I said this, so nobody thinks I’m being overdramatic. Plus, I believe it may have come out as “I need one of those hats with the straws coming out of beer, but replace the beer with two wine bottles.” Either that, or a lolly.
I hovered over the plate of knobs torn from beer bread boules to create the soup bowls, trying to figure out which one would make my anxiety go away. (Oh, eating my feelings. when you show up, it’s like an old high school friend with depression that Debbie Downers everything you try to accomplish in life.)
Let me just say something about the game itself super quick…the team overachieved their brains out to get to that point of the tournament. They should have never even been in the conversation as far as championship contenders go. These girls worked themselves to the bone, and next year I think we’re going to have a team that can stand up to the kinds of pressure pounded down on them over the past few months. It’s going to be an epic season next year. That being said, the loss itself wasn’t the real saddening aspect of the night (despite that it was Notre Dame…UGH.)
My entire family was on the trip. I hadn’t seen them all in one room since New Year’s Day. In that moment, I was a daughter who wanted to give her Dad a hug. A sister who wanted to see my brother and go hunt for some liquor ponies to get us through the post-loss depression, who wanted to talk Hunger Games shop with my sister. An aunt who wanted to give my nephew a big ol’ squeeze.
I just wanted to see my family. And I couldn’t.
I suddenly felt very small. And a bit sick.
The loss wasn’t the biggest thing. Every other time we’ve lost in the Final Four, I’ve been there to support my Dad and hug the girls. They were in Denver, but that could’ve been Jupiter.
I excused myself to the bathroom, leaned up against the sink, and got my “Poor First World Problems That Nobody Else Has” sobfest on in private. I do it following post-season losses all the time, not so much if we lose during the season. It’s a feeling of helplessness, like knowing something terrible is going on and not being able to stop it. I understand that this feeling is probably not placed in the right arena and I should probably save it for a bigger world problem such as, um, the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian rape camps, but in that moment I felt the need to cry. It’s probably better than any other sort of behavior I could engage in, but it’s still uncomfortable to get to that point of sobby-face.
Also, notice how I had to go to the bathroom to do this crying jag. That is deliberate. I don’t cry in front of anybody. Unless I love you more than life, I ain’t crying in front of you. So, if I have cried in front of you, congratulations! I love you more than any sane person should probably love another human! Whee!
After that, my feelings subsided and I was able to get back out into society like a properly functioning denizen. We all sat in the living room, ate brownies, watched Game of Thrones
, and played drinking games such as “Take a drink when Jon Snow gets called a bastard” or “Take a drink whenever a Lannister pays a debt.” At one point, someone saw my face was still a bit bleak from the loss and leaned over to whisper in encouragement, “You’ll see your fam on Tuesday when you all watch the championship together!” Which of course was the perfect thing to say at that moment, but in my head I thought to myself Mike and his girlfriend won’t be there, they have work/school
. It would be a half-reunion, but still one I could look forward to.
Monday was the day of traveling back home, so I didn’t see anyone. Tuesday night we drove over to my sisters’ house and walked in to the sight of my darling little nephew throwing a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll onto his motorized John Deere tractor and pushing it into walls and my sister and mom prepping guacamole. Todd was chasing after the baby, and my Dad was leaning up against the wall trying to program his iPhone. Yes, he has gone to the Steve Jobsian side. Lord help us. I hugged everyone I could find, then tried to convince the nephew that the girl standing in front of him was his Aunt Ally, but he was too busy staring past me to his mother, as if to say, “Get this Rachel Maddow lookalike away from me.” It took a full ten minutes of convincing to show him I was his Aunt, and then he spent the rest of the evening trying to cause a car crash between his John Deere and my left femur.
After a few moments of chitchat, some guacamole-loaded chips, and a glass of wine (although after Sunday night I should just never drink anything ever again), I heard another knock at the door. “Who’s that?” I said to Mom. She uncorked another bottle of wine (we go hard). “Mike and Marra. They said they’d be here a little later on.”
Say what?! My heart gave a mighty leap. “I HAD NO IDEA THEY WERE GONNA BE HERE,” I screamed, running to the hallway and trying not to stumble into the baby fence separating the kitchen from the foyer as my brother and his girlfriend entered the house.
I couldn’t even handle it. My family and all of our significant others together in one room, for the first time in four months.
For the rest of the night, we ate delicious food, drank wine and beer, and watched the game. Dad gave snarky commentary about my haircut from his captain’s chair (“You look like, um…Jamie Lee Curtis. No! Drew Barrymore! NO! Annette Bening! She’s gorgeous! Warren Beatty wouldn’t marry a dog, after all!” and tried to look up a picture of her on his phone) and Mom and Jenna expressed profound disappointment over the lack of a color in Kim Mulkey’s outfit that resembled a box of Nerds, like she had worn in the semifinals. Jenna proceeded to compare everyone onscreen to a character in The Hunger Games, Marra rained hellfire on Skylar Diggins, Todd gave Baylor’s win a standing ovation, and every once and a while, we’d hear my nephew talking in gibberish demon-speak to his Winnie the Pooh doll over the baby monitor. Or, a slow Tuesday.
Baylor can keep their ‘unfinished business’ mantra. Our business was finished in just the right way, thank you very much.
2011-2012 is in the books. Next year the Final Four is back in New Orleans. And next year I plan to stand in center court following the final buzzer, watching confetti rain down on some Huskies in the Big Easy.
If the world doesn’t end first.
PS. Going into the #shitmymomsays files…I worked out at my parents’ house on Tuesday afternoon before the game watch and went to say goodbye to my Mom. She noticed the book in my hands and said “Ooooh! Hunger Pains!”…It’s The Hunger Games, mom, but good try.
PPS. London 2012 in three months. I’ll be accompanied by my entire extended family, best friend, and boyfriend. A trip for the ages, and I’ll be sure to Tweet and blog the whole affair. Fuzzy plans include shopping at Portobello road, having at least one Traditional English Breakfast, fish ‘n’ chips and a Boddington/Snakebite and Black, and getting a hair cut from my cousin. Oh, and preventing my best friend from jumping into the Olympic pool to kidnap Michael Phelps. But she’s strong and wily, so I might just let her go. It’ll make a good story for the grandkids.