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I haven’t been asked that question much in the past year. No doubt many of you reading this have.
I root for Baylor because the four years I spent as a student meant a great deal to me.
I came to Waco in 2009 because a debate scholarship meant that I was offered free tuition at a good school. I really didn’t know a ton about Baylor. Though, I don’t think most people really know a ton about a place before they spend time there. Until I received the scholarship late in my senior year, my plan was to attend the school I grew up rooting for: the University of Kansas.
Baylor changed me for the better. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I met my best friend and learned that unlimited food at the cafeteria makes the freshman fifteen inevitable. On the days the direct deposit hit, I learned how to not budget. And in the last weeks before another direct deposit entered a Bank of America account I should have never set up, I learned the joys of walking to that 24-hour Subway gas station across from Penland to purchase a $2.49 foot long sandwich that was only offered after midnight.
Over my time at Baylor, I became a better person. I learned from excellent professors who proved Dr. Samuel Palmer Brooks right when he said, “The truths of life which I learned as a student at Baylor have not varied, nor will they vary.” I made life-changing friendships. Baylor was the place where a conservative kid from Kansas could become best friends with a liberal guy from Iowa. It was the place where losing my last debate—a round or two earlier than we should have due to my mistake—bothered me so much because Baylor debate and my best friend were so important to me. Maybe you can have those experiences elsewhere. But I certainly had them at Baylor.
Baylor basketball is my favorite thing to watch and matters more to me than any sports team I root for. There’s not really much of a transition between that thought and anything I wrote before it because it’s kind of hard to explain why that team matters so much to me. So I’ll offer some stories about the team, and if those stories fail to explain why I like the team, then that’s understandable. Explaining why these stories matter would be kind of like explaining why Curb Your Enthusiasm is funny. You either believe it is (and are right) or you don’t.
Baylor basketball has been an incredible group to follow. When I arrived on campus, the Bears were picked to finish 10th in a Big 12 that still had the number of teams the league’s name signifies. But that team showed that we really have no idea what the future holds, as they made it to the Elite Eight. I became hooked watching Quincy Acy dunk on Texas 10 times. I was an idiot and made a fool of myself before Kansas blew out Baylor in early 2011. My friends convinced me I’d be an idiot to not go to the KU-Baylor game early in 2013 because the NIT bound Bears might beat the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks. They did—by 23 points. Before the 2014 Big 12 Tournament, Josh DeMoss brought two friends up to Lawrence, Kansas. Josh had to go to Texas to take care of some business. The rest of us went to Kansas City to watch a team that started conference play 2-8 make a run to the Big 12 Tournament Championship. Those experiences were everything that makes sports worth watching.
What we’ve learned over the last year has made many people hate Baylor or question how anyone could root for the University. But the reason I root for the University and its sports teams (including football) requires asking: what is Baylor? I wrote after the TCU game, and the attempt by some to sell #CAB shirts, “To any alumni, you did not go to Briles University. You went to Baylor University.” And that’s not an attempt by me to discuss everything that happened over the last year in a 1,000 word post. It’s me saying that Baylor is bigger than any one of us.
Robert Griffin III wisely said at his Heisman speech, “Baylor we are, Baylor we'll always be, but it's up to us to define what that means.” What happened over the last several years rightfully defined Baylor in a negative light to many. But I will always always be Baylor. So many good people I know will always be too. That gives me confidence Baylor will never again be what has made so many dislike it. It will be what has made me love it.
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