Being a Baylor basketball fan is rough.
In this century, the program has seen the lowest of the low, been through some pretty hard to watch seasons, then been on the front porch of the Final Four without ever quite making it through the front door.
We hit #1 in the nation two years ago, then immediately saw loss after loss that spiraled down to a sweet sixteen loss. Then a year later, we weren’t even in the tourney. We’ve seen players come and go in the past couple years, always wondering if these are the guys, then realizing later that they aren’t “the guys”. Being a Baylor basketball fan is tough.
But then again, it’s the easiest thing in the world.
How can people not be a fan of these guys? How is the Ferrell Center not packed every night? Who wouldn’t want to get behind this team? I promise you, I haven’t the slightest clue. Because being a Baylor basketball fan is more than watching a basketball team.
It wasn’t until I left home and came to college that I realized that not everybody loves sports. And even fewer love college basketball.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but friends regularly ask me, “why do you love sports so much? You know that stuff has no real meaning, right?” Aren’t people like that just the worst? No meaning? You’ve obviously never paid attention if you think that Baylor basketball has no meaning.
This stuff has a heck of a lot of meaning. You watch a coach bring in young, inexperienced players. You watch these players struggle. You watch them succeed. You watch them fail, and you experience heartbreak with them. You’re there to cheer for them for the highs and support them after a loss. You get to witness these players grow, not just as basketball players, but as young men. You get to see your dream being lived out on the court by these guys. They’re actually doing it. And you are there every step of the way. And it doesn’t matter if they know your name or even recognize your face. And it doesn’t matter if you are sitting front row every night or are watching half-way across the world. They’re living our dream out there. Don’t tell me that has no meaning. Don’t tell me this doesn’t matter. You better believe it matters.
And all the downs, and the struggle, and the heartbreak, and the games where you’re so nervous you can’t watch are worth it. Because those are our guys out there.
It’s day’s like the West Virginia game, a completely momentumless game and the ugliest win of the season when it gets hard to watch. By far the worst officiated game in recent memory, enough to even get the senior citizens in the front row to get on their feet to scream at the refs. That’s how you know it’s bad. It’s day’s like that when it gets a little hard to keep watching the game. But infinitely harder than that is looking away.
I don’t know about you, but after every single home game, I wait for that Scott Drew tweet. You know, that one where he thanks Baylor Nation for showing up. He sends them even if the fan turnout was terrible. I never feel like I make more of a difference than when I read those tweets. And hearing Mark Vital and Bandoo make off-hand comments in the post-game press conference about how loud the fans were that Saturday… nothing makes me happier. I guess I just selfishly want them to acknowledge my contribution. But it still makes me happy.
Have you ever seen the movie Survive and Advance? It’s a movie about the 1983 NC State basketball team and their crazy run to the championship. I watched it the other day for about the 15th time. It gave me chills. It always does. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I just watch in awe. But it always affects me. It’s like somebody made a movie out of all the reasons I love college basketball.
It’s easy to look at a movie like that and think “man, what if?” What if that were us. What if that was Baylor Basketball. Wouldn’t that be amazing? But we haven’t made a crazy tournament run. And we haven’t won a championship. We haven’t even made a final four in the modern era. If we could just get that, things would be great. Life would be better.
I’m here to tell you that what you have right in front of you, right now is just a good. Championships are only pure joy if you’ve experienced heartbreak. Winning is only fun if you know what it’s like to lose. And the ride is much better than the destination. You get to sit in the Ferrell Center and watch all the guys you know better than they know themselves. You get to be there to watch them win, and you get to be there to watch them lose. You get to go nuts when Bandoo slams it home, and you have their back when the refs are ruining the game.
You boo the refs and affect the calls. You get in the other teams head by pointing out their bad haircut. You wear your lucky shirt. You sit in your lucky chair. You put your phone on silent cause in some part of your brain you think that actually helps. You do whatever it takes for Baylor to win. Why? Because Baylor Basketball matters. It has meaning. It matters to you, and it matters to those boys on the floor, battling it out every night. They’re battling for us. And maybe they aren’t, but it sure feels like it.
Being a Baylor basketball fan is rough. That’s what makes it so much fun.
You can follow Armstrong on Twitter @armstrongsimms