What a relief. I'm thrilled with the win but more relieved then anything. Relieved for the staff, relieved for the fans but most of all the players. The last two NCAA appearances were tough on MU. Significant injuries and youth played a big role and today they had to take on one of the giant programs of all-time. It was weird seeing Kentucky out there as the underdog but in a sense I was glad MU played someone with that kind of pedigree. Not that there was a chance MU would come into this game overconfident, but anything extra to pump them up was a good thing in my mind. As it turns out, not a bad day at all....let's take a look back at the sites and sounds of today.
The Pep Rally - 9:15am DoubleTree Hotel Anaheim, California
Pulled into the hotel and the cheerleaders, band and PRN's favorite mascot were outside the lobby in full throat. Managed to get inside and spotted a few friendly faces, including soon to be superstar sports agent Bill Robers (MU alum) and his lovely wife. Gerry Boyle, Father Wild, Greg Kliehbon (sp?) were there along with many faces from other trips over the years. Good turnout for a 2000 mile trip with a few So. Cal alumni as well.
Found Bill Cords in the crowd and spoke with him for about 10 minutes. He looks terrific. Well rested, healthy...what retirement should be. But you could tell that even though he's not the AD any longer, he was definitely into this event and the game. You can't just drop your life's work because you aren't punching a time card any longer. Always good to talk to him. He helped rebuild a winner when it looked hopeless at times.
About 9:30am the players started coming down through the lobby and outside to the bus. I captured a few videos showing them on their way to the most important game of the season.
After they loaded the bus, they were given a police escort from Anaheim's finest over to the Honda Center. Meanwhile the fans retreated back into the hotel for a pep talk from Jack Harbaugh.
The Pep Talk
You could tell this guy was a lifelong coach. I've heard him give a few of these before, but today's was very good. My video is terrible and I'm hoping someone else has some better clips. He started off by introducing his son, former NFL QB and current Stanford head football coach, Jim Harbaugh to the audience.
Jack then went into what today means. What it means especially for the seniors. For Barro, for Fitzgerald, for Blackledge. I'll post the video if I get it because I can't do it justice. It just struck a chord for me personally. He said the last four years we have been Barro's family and his teammates have been his brothers. Today could be his last game every with this family and these brothers. He would bring it all to the game, every last bit of energy. The same with Fitz and Lawrence. It was well stated. Maximum effort.
He then implored us all to make the Honda Center our home, to scream and yell and make our guys feel like it was our building. He divided the room into two and had a mini-competition between the two sides in terms of loudness. The fans were ready at this point...bring on the game.
Bumping into Joanie...cute story
So we leave the conference room and my wife tells me that the woman she saw yesterday at the Block of Orange (a large So Cal mall)shopping was in the room where the pep talk just happened. I asked her to describe which one. She said the gal with brown hair and the little boy. I started to laugh....you mean "THAT ONE"?
She replied, "yes".
Well, here's the background. Yesterday my wife tells me when I get home from work that she bumped into a Marquette fan at the mall while she was shopping with a girlfriend. My wife made a comment to her that it was great to see a MU fan and that her husband (me) went to MU, etc, etc. Well, my wife asked her yesterday if she was going to the game today and if she was all squared away with tickets. LOL. Joanie said she was all taken care of.
So that leads us back to today. I tell my wife, well honey, that's Joanie Crean...the wife of our head coach and I think not only is she going to the game today, her ticket situation is probably all squared away too.
Just then Joanie comes out, sees my wife and I think they had the 24 hour mall flashback for one second as they recognized each other. She was super nice, spoke to us for a few minutes and brought Reilly over. Very nice family. Very generous with her time.
Off to the Honda Center
So we got into my truck and gave a lift to Tim Vetscher and three other MU supporters. Vetscher worked as a student for me in 1997 selling season tickets to MU faithful. Now he's a television reporter in Phoenix....always good to see Tim. He participates on MU scoop from time to time.
We arrived at the Honda Center at 10:25am just before the doors opened.
My wife and I had never attended a Marquette game together in 10 years...at least not sitting together. When I worked at MU during the games, she was usually on the other side of the arena with our 3 month old son in the baby bjorn...so today was going to test our marriage.
We waited the hour for the game to tip off, I was nervous and she was the rock that she always is.
Attendance was quite sparse from what I'm used to at the Bradley Center and hosting those first two rounds. Milwaukee really does a super job of supporting the NCAA tournament.
At 11:25 they did the national anthem by the the MU band...well done. That was followed by player introductions.
I won't get into the game itself, most others have already done that. I did capture (poorly) a few final videos of the last seconds of the game including my comment "FINALLY" that is caught on video....it's been awhile and it's good to finally get another NCAA tournament win. The MU fans were ecstatic and giving Joe Crawford props for a tremendous game.
Now we've got a day off to figure out how to handle two 7 footers who have pushed UCLA to the brink twice in the last 14 days. It's good to be in the NCAAs again...and winning.