Linenberger: Rock chalk rituals
A long-sleeved red Adidas shirt with “KANSAS” in blue.
I wore the shirt in 2008 when Kansas University dropped North Carolina in the Final Four.
And thus, I had to wear it again last weekend when the Jayhawks faced the Tar Heels for the right to return to the Final Four.
Jayhawk Nation, you’re welcome.
Yes, superstitions are silly. And they get worse. I attended the KU-Ohio State game in December in Allen Fieldhouse where shooting sleeves were being handed out. The Jayhawks beat the Buckeyes that day and faced off again in the national semifinal rematch Saturday. I, of course, thought it necessary to wear the shooting sleeve. After all, from my friend’s couch, I would be playing in the game and thus need to wear the sleeve.
My latest superstitious tomfoolery got old quickly. The Jayhawks didn’t get off to the best of starts and my friend strongly encouraged removal of the sleeve. A good move indeed. Who knows whether KU would have converted another blood-pressure-increasing thriller of a victory had I left the sleeve on.
That same friend and I met in a reporting class at KU. We’ve been buddies ever since and I had the honor of being best man in his wedding.
We’ve watched many a game together, but things change. He and his wife’s twins just turned 1. Those late tournament games had our usual roars of excitement relegated to the most rambunctious whispers and golf claps you could get. Also a substitute for loud clapping: Pressing the thumb and middle finger together to form a beak of sorts.
The youngsters slept through the night, the Jayhawks advanced and I managed to do some silly happy dance in the game’s waning moments.
My superstitions haven’t stopped at wardrobes. One friend started the pregame ritual of calling me to discuss his thoughts on the upcoming KU tournament game. Just before tipoff of the last few games, I’ve also sent out a text to a non-Jayhawk friend requesting him to spare some positive vibes for the boys in crimson and blue.
I don’t deny that we tend to put far too much of an emphasis on sports. And though athletics departments can do good in providing opportunities for the academic side of the university, the salary gap between a professor and a Division I coach is ridiculous.
But for all the emphases on sports, there’s considerable good.
After that KU victory against North Carolina, I received a Facebook note from a college roommate from Holland whom I haven’t seen in more than a decade. We’ve communicated sparingly over the years, but his note after the UNC game was one of great pride in our alma mater. It was the wee hours of the morning in Holland, but he stayed up to follow the Jayhawks.
Sports bring people together like nothing else. When else are total strangers your best friends besides after that big game when you’re high-fiving fellow fan after fellow fan? It’s happened frequently on Mass Street in Lawrence in recent days.
To me, following the Jayhawks is as much about staying connected to your college friends and other members of the flock as it is about watching the team. In the case of KU football, you have to take far more lumps, which likely makes me appreciate those games and that tailgate family even more.
That might be why this particular Jayhawk basketball ride has been so enjoyable. The expectations weren’t there for this squad to make a push for a national title, but wouldn’t you know it, it’s gotten further than many star-studded KU teams.
So forgive me for my superstitions, my sentimental reminiscing about college years and my occasional uncoordinated and spontaneous celebratory dances following big KU victories.
An undying love for an alma mater will do that to a person.