Nine in Nashville.

Let’s just get right into it, shall we? This is the first time in a week that my brain and body are operating at a satisfactory frequency.

This was the first Final Four since 2010 that my entire family was able to attend; my sister and her husband left the babies with the in-laws and were determined to make the most of their trip. My brother and his girlfriend were also up for a crazy weekend. Add in a Dad looking to blow off steam and a mom with the energy of a ferret on Pixie Stix and I am going to need about a month of sleep to make up for what I missed these past few days.  Thank God the hotel had a Starbucks in it.

My trip started with nachos in the Bradley Airport bar, then watching the men play Florida in my parents’ Nashville hotel room, and running and hugging every one of Dad’s former players that managed to come for the tournament. But to be honest, my favorite people I saw on Friday night were my old friend Molly and her mom Sara. Molly’s dad, Todd Turner, used to be the AD at UConn and I used to take vacations with their family all the time, but then Todd got hired as the AD at NC State and then Vanderbilt so we haven’t seen each other in a long time, and now Molly is expecting her first child, so when I saw her and her mother I legit lost all control of my emotions.

The family ended up going out to dinner but I was exhausted and overwhelmed from all of the interactions with people – I’m naturally an introvert and therefore burn out incredibly easily when there’s a lot of people to talk to – so I went back to my room, ordered room service, and called it a night.  I am an old woman.

Sunday was spent going to the gym and catching up on work for my students before walking to a place called Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Nashville for pre-game nachos and enchiladas, and I’m not going to lie..I was definitely dealing with typical Ally Anxiety, to the point that I kept feeling like I was going to have a cardiac episode. And the first ten minutes of our game did not dissuade any of my fears. We couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat. Finally, when we were down by about 6, I decided to go up and take a walk around the concourse – not because I couldn’t watch, but because I needed to blow off steam. For some reason, I stopped at one of the concourse TVs and right at that moment Bria hit a 3-pointer. Then Stef hit a jumper. Then Stewie. Then Stewie again. That TV became my best friend. Seriously, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. At one point, Jen and JJ and Colleen came up to go to the bathroom and JJ immediately yelled “You better stay RIGHT THERE!” I find it funny that literally everyone knows about this habit of mine.

Also, I think I want to sit next to Meghan Culmo for every single game of my entire life – there’s an amazing shot of her nearly throttling me after Moriah stole the ball in the second half of the Stanford game, and countless more of her just standing up and screaming at random people to stand up.  Another great moment in the Stanford game was when they honored NCAA student-athletes who were great humanitarians and one of them was a University of Hartford player, and Jen stood up and screamed and waved at her player like a mom at a dance recital.

We walked out after the game to pouring rain, and thankfully someone was selling ponchos right outside the Bridgestone Arena so we all snapped up a few pairs and walked back to our hotel covered in plastic.  I proceeded to crash-land into bed and watch game tape until I fell asleep.

Monday, yet again, was spent working on school stuff and answering student emails (and trying Jimmy John’s and being horribly underwhelmed), and hanging out with my family. Nashville is a really, really fun town, but if you’re looking for something else to do other than eat a ton of BBQ, drink all the beers, and shop for cowboy boots, it takes about a 20 minute cab ride to nearly Kentucky in order to get to any regular shopping or entertainment that doesn’t involve honky-tonk. Despite this, it was a fun time!

On Monday night we went out to an Italian restaurant and watched the men’s game, and promptly freaked the hell out when UConn won. Fun fact: Kevin Ollie is the first black coach since Tubby Smith in 1998 to win a Div. 1 National Championship, and is one of only four black coaches to win a title.

It was of course incredible that the men pulled this off, and Shabazz now joins the elite company of those such as Kemba and Rip Hamilton who clutch shoot and break ankles (NEVER FORGET), but I felt even more nervous about our game because I felt the guys winning put a lot of pressure on our girls. But there was this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were going to win. There were too many signs pointing towards a victory. 

Tuesday did not start out very well, despite the good juju. What with one thing and another (maybe I should never read ESPN comment threads late at night when I’m PMSing ever ever ever again), I didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 and then woke up at 6AM, inexplicably. I had been planning on getting a really good night of sleep so I could be up to have fun on Tuesday night, but clearly that wasn’t meant to happen. It also didn’t help that I didn’t have much caffeine in my system. Again, I am an old woman.

In spite of feeling exhausted, I had a good Tuesday. I went to the gym, did some grading, and then had lunch with Stacy and Meghan and Pam at a 1940s-era diner (good, if oily, food) and then after a half-hearted attempt at a nap I joined our group. We went to Rock Bottom to recreate our semifinal dinner plans. We are so freaking superstitious, I wore the same top and necklace I had worn on Sunday and considered ordering the same food.

I was so unbelievably nervous, I chugged at least six glasses of water at dinner and plowed my way through some slightly unsatisfying BBQ chicken. Then, I spent most of the first several possessions of the actual game with my head between my knees and my ears plugged, feeling like I was going to throw up all over everyone.

Then I looked up and we were up 14.  Then the game got fun.

Watching that game was like being at a really amazing party with all of your friends and family.  It was so similar to the 2000 Final Four championship game where we completely dismantled Tennessee with backdoor cuts. At one point we made a billionth backdoor cut to a layup and I stood up and yelled “ALL DAY! ALL DAY!”

It was so nice to go to a Final Four game without hyperventilating and running around the concourse.

My only regret from Tuesday night? I had promised the boy I would wear the 1959 Jonathan t-shirt to the championship game and got all the way to Nashville before realizing i had left said shirt in the trunk of my car. You better believe I’m wearing it now!

Later on, I got some texts from people saying that the post-game made them cry, which confused me until I was in a bar later on that night and saw ESPN’s replay of that interview.  Jenna, Mike, and I looked at each other and clinked our glasses.  That’s just Dad, man.

You know how I spent the championship night? In bed, eating a bag of Peppermint Patties, and passing the hell out. I was just too exhausted to really be of any fun to anybody. That just means I have to go back to Nashville when I’m hale and hearty, right?

So, we flew home on Wednesday and that was that.

Good things happen to good people, and great things happen to people who deserve it. No one deserved this more than these girls. No one. And I think the events preceding Tuesday, and the game on Tuesday, definitely confirmed that inference.

If there is one defining moment from that weekend I will remember forever, it’s a small video montage the NCAA made of clips from every single women’s Final Four championship game, set to Katy Perry’s “Roar.” Whenever Pat Summitt showed up on the screen, the entire crowd of 20,000+ stood up and screamed their appreciation.  I loved that. It was a group of fans from different states, supporting different schools – some of whom weren’t even in the Final Four, but they showed up for love of the game – and we all came together in that moment to honor a legend. I can’t believe that Dad is in the same conversation as her, but I don’t think anybody deserves it more. And that was proven last week.

Nine.

ally

PS. You have no idea how difficult it was for me not to tweet during that weekend. Holy hell. I lost years off my life. Only six more days!
PPS. In a response to the whole “OMG UCONN IS DESTROYING BASKETBALL” discussion…Teams will start beating us when every single other program conducts themselves with the same discipline that my dad’s team does. That takes years of work, and it clearly pays off. So force yourselves to be better, Other Teams. We aren’t invincible. We just work harder. Therefore, work harder. In the meantime, chill the hell out. Greatness doesn’t last so enjoy it.
PPPS. There was a random man on the concourse who insisted I take a picture with him. I obliged, thinking he knew who I was. Then he asked if I was from CT and if I had a boyfriend. It got weird, real fast. I immediately laughed – in the way girls do when they’re trying to find the nearest exit from a conversation with that dude at a party who just won’t.go.away – and ran like hell down the stairs. So to answer your question, Random Creeper – Yes, I am from CT, and no, I will not go out with you. And to answer your other question, no, I will not “keep [you] in mind.”

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One thought on “Nine in Nashville.

  1. “Teams will start beating us when every single other program conducts themselves with the same discipline that my dad's team does.” And that's the fact. It's not magic, it's hard work and discipline. Yeah, and talent, too.

    While UConn and a few other schools have an advantage with being able to realistically recruit nationally instead of mostly regionally or locally, the talent is still there. As long as the stars, especially, and the team buy into a solid system, it can take them far. The difference in Storrs is twofold: coaching consistency; and a commitment to excellence that is more than a catchphrase on an inspirational poster — it's what you have to do.

    I say this as a fan and supporter of women's basketball since the late 70s, and as an ardent fan and alumni of Maryland. I'm not a UConn booster other than having a great appreciation for what Geno has accomplished there. (Who knew? I remember him leaving Virginia and the ACC to coach in Connecticut . Madness.) Excellence is not ruination. Failure to aspire to and work toward excellence is.

    Like

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