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A Game to Remind Us What Sports Are All About

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We saw an incredible game in San Antonio last night that is likely to become known as an immortal contest in the not-all-that-distant future.

But perhaps even more significantly, we saw a game with an immortal message to those who had the distinct pleasure of watching it: This is what sports are all about.

It was the type of game that had everything.


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It had some of the brightest young stars on the biggest stage it could have.

It had the pressure that all big games do.  As is always the case with pressure, there were some who stepped up and rose to the occasion (Mario Chalmers, Kansas in general) and those who finally folded under it (the entire Memphis team, particularly anyone who went to the foul line down the stretch).

It had the emphasis on attention to detail that every championship team must possess.  One team did all the big things -- namely, outscoring the opponent -- for nearly 38 minutes and then failed to do all the little things -- foul shooting, failing to push the ball up the floor against the press -- down the stretch.  Conversely, it had the one team that had the wherewithal to overcome adversity and do everything right with the game hanging in the balance.

It had 'the buzz' to it.  As we watched a close game continue to stay tight throughout, we began to think that something special could happen.  That there was just that something about this game.  That this was the sort of game we knew early on that we didn't want to walk away from for any reason.

It had the sucker punch moment.  We were inordinately close to having every Jayhawks fan on the planet spend the night with images playing across his head of Robert Dozier sprinting across the lane to the right corner to corral the rebound of Chris Douglas-Roberts' second missed free throw in the final 20 seconds.

It had the moment, the one that may have forged at least one individual's legacy.  Mario Chalmers will never forget the three-pointer that tied this game.  Neither will his Kansas teammates.  Or the Memphis Tigers.  But the cool part is that chances are, neither will all those who saw it.

It ran the gamut of pure emotions, just as the game of basketball is supposed to do.  The images of Joey Dorsey sitting on the bench with his head in his hands and the terrified looks on the face of every Memphis player, coach and fan down the stretch won't be going away soon.  By the same token, the reaction on the Kansas side after the Chalmers bucket?  Unreal.  The sight of backup Kansas guard Sherron Collins hopping around the floor as he dribbled out the clock conveyed nothing more or less than the feeling of pure exuberance.

And perhaps more tellingly than all else, it was the type of game that made us want more badly than ever just to be a part of it.   Over the next couple of days, I'm going to tell countless people about where I was and what I did last night.  Really, it isn't anything that will strike most as all that amazing: Good friend and Columbia Missourian reporter Bill Powell and I rounded up our boys Rigolega and Heartland Greg and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings (after the first bar we tried was already jam-packed 20 minutes before game time, that is). 

We did what friends and sports fans do: We stuffed our faces.  We shot the breeze.  I ribbed Heartland Greg for the thousandth time that his entire hometown probably had almost as many people as my high school graduating class did.  Rigolega ripped on me for having no common sense in general.  We laughed a lot and enjoyed both each other's company and what was turning out to be quite the compelling basketball game.  When said basketball game suddenly jumped from compelling to great to out-of-this-world in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we just lost it.  We screamed.  We high-fived about the fact that these two teams would give us five more minutes, forgetting all along that we showed up to the restaurant as bona fide Kansas haters and only focusing on how this game had to keep going, how it wouldn't be just for it to end on us so soon.  We settled in to order another round of drinks that we never thought we would need.  We each said, "I can't believe this!" roughly ten times in the two minutes between the end of regulation and overtime.

And we saw everyone around us doing all the same things.

Because we were all so happy just to be a part of it all.

I'll tell that relatively mundane story to a lot of people over the next few days.  I'll hear lots of similarly mundane stories in return from those same people over the next few days, even though we're all just fans with friends who acted as fans with friends do.  But we were a part of it.

And for games like Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT), being a part of it is as good as it gets.  No matter what that part is. 

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