LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - I miss sports .
I miss the NCAA Tournament.
I miss the drama.
I miss it all.
My entire life has been framed by sports and perhaps no single event helped to incubate that love more than March Madness. Can I even say March Madness? At this point, I don’t care.
The first game I remember watching was the 1979 final with Larry Bird’s unbeaten Indiana State team matched up with Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michigan State. I can vividly remember every tournament in the 80′s.
The stars are usually unpredictable.
I remember being in the family room in 1981 when US Reed of Arkansas hit the half court shot to beat UofL.
The Dream Game in 1983. The Cards had gotten a bit of revenge when a Scotter McCray tip in beat the Razorbacks in the Sweet 16. Then they turned up the pressure and Milt Wagner and Lancaster Gordon went crazy in overtime in the 80-68 win over the Cats.
I was in Rupp Arena in 1985 when Villanova upset heavily favored Georgetown by playing a near perfect game.
I was in Freedom Hall in 1987 when a Providence team, coached by Rick Pitino, upset the Hoyas in the Southeast Region final to earn a trip to the Final Four.
I was in the RCA Dome in 1989 when UofL beat Arkansas-Little Rock in an NCAA opener. In the game before that Arkansas beat a Loyola-Marymount team 120-101. That Loyola team featured Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.
That was just as a fan.
Since I began working in this business in 1994, I have covered the tournament in some form or fashion every season.
I was in Milwaukee in 1996 when UofL beat Tulsa and then upset Villanova to set up a Sweet 16 match up with Tim Duncan and Wake Forest. Then we drove to Minneapolis for that game and stayed to cover UK.
It was on to the Meadowlands for the Final Four.
Kentucky beat John Calipari and UMass and then Syracuse in the final for the Cats first National Championship in 20 years.
In 1997, UofL beat UMass and then upset New Mexico. We drove straight from Pittsburgh to Syracuse. The Cards beat Texas and then if DeJuan Wheat hadn’t sprained his ankle, they may well have beaten North Carolina in the East Region final. That game would prove to be the final win for Tar Heels Hall of Fame head coach Dean Smith. His team had some talent. Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison were the headliners. Somehow Carter is still playing in the NBA.
Then I headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four where Kentucky beat Minnesota and then lost in overtime to Arizona in the final.
In 1998, I spent the entire tourney run at the station. The crews never came home, going from Atlanta to St. Petersburg to San Antonio.
I covered UK in 1999, UofL in 2000, UK in 2002, UK in 2003, right up until Keith Bogans sprained his ankle in the Sweet 16, and Marquette countered with a guy named Dwyane Wade. Wade had a triple double against the Cats in the regional final in the Metrodome.
In 2005 I covered UK all the way to the Elite Eight, an overtime loss to Michigan State. Then I headed to St. Louis for UofL’s Final Four game against Illinois.
In 2009, when #1 overall seed UofL was knocked off by Michigan State in the Midwest Region final in Indianapolis, I headed to St. Louis for the Women’s Final Four. UofL beat Oklahoma in the semis before falling to UConn in the title game.
I was back in Syracuse in 2010 when the Cats went ice cold from three in an East Region final loss to West Virginia.
I had won Final Four tickets in the lottery, and drove up to Indianapolis for the Saturday games. My wife, Connie, and I got even better tickets for the National Championship game and were right behind the basket where Butler’s Gordon Hayward’s half court shot bounced off the backboard at the buzzer to give Duke another title.
In 2011, I was in Houston when UK lost to UConn and then I nearly fell asleep as the Huskies beat Butler in a boring game in the cavernous Reliant Stadium.
In 2012, I was in the Superdome when the Cats beat the Cards, and then I managed to get a seat right behind the CBS crew of Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for UK’s win over Kansas in the title game. I remember thinking how obvious it was that Anthony Davis was the Most Outstanding Player, even though he did not have a single basket until late in the game. He was that dominant.
In 2013, I covered the Cards the entire way from Lexington to Indianapolis to Atlanta.
I was sitting behind the Duke bench when Kevin Ware suffered that gruesome injury.
The night of the National Championship game, after finishing up work around 4 am, we slept for a few hours before driving from Atlanta to New Orleans for the women’s final between UofL and UConn.
Back to Indy in 2014 for that classic Cards-Cats Sweet 16 game. Then back to the Final Four, this time in Dallas. The monster screen at AT&T Stadium is even bigger than you think.
The story of that Final Four was how my brother-in-law got Kendrick Haskins and I into a suite for the Final Four games. Not just any suite, it was the Jerry Jones suite. The Cowboys owner was there. So was Jason Garrett, Troy Aikman, Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty and Johnny Manziel. Kendrick is a huge Cowboys and when we met Jerry Jones, he asked us if we wanted to get a picture with him.
We didn’t make the cut for the National Championship game. President Bush and President Clinton did.
We ended up with seats at mid court, about 14 rows up. Among the celebs we saw were Adrian Peterson and Dusty Baker.
What a run in 2015 as the Cats took an unbeaten record into the tournament. The atmosphere was electric for opening games in the KFC Yum! Center and then I’ll never forget that classic Midwest Region final against Notre Dame in Cleveland.
The unbeaten streak was ended by Sam Dekker and Wisconsin in Indianapolis.
After six straight trips to the Final Four, including the one as a fan, it’s hard to believe that we haven’t been back.
Not going back is acceptable. It takes a magical ride and a few breaks to get there. One of our area teams will take us there someday soon.
Not even being to watch it is unbearable.
I miss the NCAA Tournament.