By T.J. Tedesco
My mom made a promise to me when she was working for Gonzaga basketball 20 years ago. If Gonzaga ever made it to the Final Four, we were going to be there. At the time, they were lucky to beat five Division 1 schools each year, and at the time, I knew I would be good enough to play for them. As I got older and continued to dominate the no-easy-buckets 6-foot-and-under league through high school, I knew I was destined for the greatness that every young boy dreams of. That’s right, the Spokane 3-on-3 Tournament. Yet the whole time, all the Zags had to do was make the call. Their loss. Somehow, I remained a loyal fan.
Gonzaga was able to walk into the Final Four, largely because Sean Miller was—once again—unable to get past the Sweet 16, and his team of giants got punked by Xavier, a team with skinned knees and sharp elbows. Despite the easy road, the Zags were on their way to the first Final Four in school history and there was simply no way I wasn’t going.
There were two things I knew I was 100% going to experience walking into University of Phoenix Stadium for that Saturday double header:
- Oregon fans being completely obnoxious for four consecutive hours. They did not disappoint. “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”…shut up.
- Gonzaga’s cheering section continuing to roll out the worst cheers in all of college basketball. Really. Almost makes Oregon look clever. “SCORE, ZAGS, SCORE” “SCORE, ZAGS, SCORE.” I thought I was prepared—I figured if I drank enough, I could calm my nerves and mayyyybe participate in these awful cheers. I was wrong.
Quick aside about the venue. University of Phoenix Stadium doesn’t allow drinking at the stadium—they want you to sit through two college basketball games/slopfests without a single beer. University of Phoenix Stadium also doesn’t allow re-entry at any point during either game or in-between games. University of Phoenix Stadium also ran out of food before the end of the first game. I hate University of Phoenix Stadium.
I got over the overwhelming dryness only because Gonzaga played the best half of their tournament for those first twenty minutes. I never felt that Gonzaga was going to lose to South Carolina, despite allowing a 16-0 run and being down two points with under 10 minutes to play. My mom, a wonderful lady with a perfect medical record, was nearing a coronary. This Gonzaga team just had too much talent, too much size—South Carolina couldn’t match up. We on to our way to our first CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
In the title game, Gonzaga went up 21-14 about ten minutes into the first half. I could see the postgame ceremony in my head. I had already crowned them National Champions. This matchup was perfect for Gonzaga: UNC’s big men couldn’t dominate the glass against the three skilled 7-footers the Zags were able to rotate in all game. Our star, Nigel Wiliams-Goss, was outplaying likely lottery pick Justin Jackson on both ends of the court, and our sniper Josh Perkins was nailing threes from all over.
I knew I was going to write about this game and all I wanted to do was send a cordial “Thank You” note to University of Washington (ex-)Coach Lorenzo Romar. He coached with such glorious mediocrity that the Huskies’ leading scorer and aspiring NBA guard of two seasons ago (Williams-Goss) was willing to sit on the bench for a year to get away through a transfer to Gonzaga.
And on the game went. We sat through one of the sloppiest national championships of all time. There wasn’t a player on the court who was able to get into any type of rhythm all game long, and the refs, predictably, decided this was their chance to make a name for themselves. Six minutes into the second half both teams were in the bonus and Gonzaga’s best NBA prospect was relegated to the bench with his fourth foul. The rest of the game came and went with many bad calls and a few times where I half expected to see Tim Donaghy in the crowd, sipping a non-beer and tipping his hat to what he was watching. Bravo, NCAA. Nothing better than a game where you don’t get to see the best players on the court at the end.
I should have been happy that the team I grew up watching had a shot of winning the National Championship against North Carolina. Every kid at my elementary school wore UNC hats and UNC shorts because we though powder blue was cool, now Gonzaga was playing them for the title. Cool. Yeahhhh. I wasn’t happy.
I knew I was going to get texts from all the people that had been ignoring me for the first five rounds of the tournament. Every fan knows all the shitty condescending texts you get from your friends any time your team loses an important game.
The worst part about losing a game like this when everyone knows you’re a maniacal supporter– going to work the next day. Every jackass that filled out a bracket and paid some guy who wears sweats to work five dollars to join his pool now wants to explain, in detail, the benefits of a full court press.
I may eventually get over it, but part of the great thing about college sports is that you are truly attached to a team, not one player. I will always be a zag fan. We may never get a shot at another title, so look, Brad/Mike/Kevin/etc., let me be pissed off today.