Sunday I was on the road, a five hour road trip, and found myself an hour and thirty minutes away from home with 15 minutes before Kentucky vs Baylor. I did what any Kentucky fan would do and pulled over to a sports bar off I64 (which happened to be in Lexington) and watched Kentucky beat Baylor soundly.
Having had vowed to my Kentucky girlfriend – a platonic relationship I maintain with a female friend, in which we only talk from October to the first week of April (aka Kentucky basketball season) – that I would bypass the SEC tournament in lue of a potential trip to New Orleans (NoLa).
That Baylor win meant that my NoLa trip was on. Tickets were within reach, hotel was obtained, transportation secured, but the main issue was that 4 weeks prior I misjudged the date of the NCAA championships and the date of a major software release my company was producing.
Here’s a rundown of the Road to the Final Four from that point on:
Sunday – an internal struggle: Do I text or call my boss requesting the biggest day of our business year off, giving him time to think about his decision. Why the decision? I would be letting down him, my team and more. I decided not to. I decided to do the professional thing – work.
Monday – Text messages rolled in. Invites to the game buzzed my phone nearly off the desk. I broke, decided that I had to at least ask. It was a once in a lifetime chance. I walked into his office and posed the ‘hypothetical’ question. His response? A snicker and “if you want off, take off. I won’t stop you. Make the right decision”. Game on! Once in a lifetime opportunity, I’m going and will let everyone know about it tomorrow.
Tuesday – I make a habit of never going with my first decision. It is usually filled with unadulterated greed and selfishness. A day of thought, contemplation and angst had me realize I needed to be in the office. I couldn’t go. There’s always next time…I told my boss and he responded with “good decision.” A reassurance I needed as the strings to go and stay had been pulled in both directions.
Wednesday – My mind raced. Listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio and how this game was a once in a lifetime thing. These teams had never met this far into the tournament before and could possibly never meet again. A sigh came across my lips. I felt like I was missing out. That feeling you get as a kid that all your friends are secretly having fun without you, well this one was multiplied by 25,000-40,000… seeing as how that is how many Kentucky fans were expected in NoLa. I had looked at flights all week. Could I make it down with friends Friday and back via air on Monday morning? No. Could I work from the hotel? No. Could I manage to leave Sunday, after the game in which I would be missing a potential championship? Maybe. Flights were within budget and after a call to see if tickets and hotel were still available, I decided Big Blue Easy, here I come.
Thursday – The LONGEST DAY EVER. Like the day before Christmas. 24 hours of NoLa was something I was nervous about. Being 12 hours away from home in a crowd of potentially sad Kentucky fans… my stomach was doing flips good and bad.
Friday – Slow in the office – the calm before the stom so leaving the office at 4pm wouldn’t be a problem. Bourbon Street from 9am (after a snooze in Meridian , Ms) until 5 AM for my 7AM flight home Sunday, that will be a problem. Currently, this is as far as we’ve made it – 10 miles from Alabama, 4 hours from our stopping point for the evening. 12 hours from what hopes to be an amazing day in the life of a Kentucky fan. The Three Goggles Hand puppet is framed in the passenger side window and all Kentucky fans see it and salute – Louisville fans throw their gang sign in return. It’s going to be an awesome trip and my motto has become, live in the present – worry about the result afterwards.