Tonight, of course, is the NCAA championship, and for only the 68th time in the 70-game history of the event, the title bout will not feature the Arkansas Razorbacks. I know, I know: it will be oh-so-strange to not see the Hogs out there, but we’ll just have to get used to it, I guess.
Some random championship thoughts:
* The CBS broadcast of the game has always struck me as pretty hilarious. First off, there’s the ridiculous and pompous title of the pre-game show: “Prelude to a Championship.” And, then, there’s the song that plays over the closing credits.
* Watching the post-game interviews on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think of Billy Packer’s interview with Nolan Richardson just after the Hogs defeated Arizona in the 1994 national semifinals. Packer mentioned to Nolan that he thought the turning point of the game was when Corey Beck re-entered the second half after sitting out much of it with foul trouble. Nolan snarled something like, “Wow. What insight, Billy. I mean, a blind man could have seen that.”
Packer responded, “I think that’s a slam at me.” To which Richardson replied, “I guarantee that it is.”
As much as I loved Nolan, I thought at the time that he was being a little harsh on Packer. Having heard more about Packer over the years, though, I’ve changed my mind.
* Question time: What’s your favorite non-Razorback championship game memory? And your least favorite?
My favorite is the 1986 game between Louisville and Duke in Dallas. Not because it was the greatest game (although it was a very good one), but because I was there. The previous fall, my dad entered the Final Four ticket lottery, and he hit the jackpot. I was 13 years old, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a sporting event before or since.
My family stayed at a hotel that was heavily populated with Louisville fans. The hotel had a shuttle service to and from Reunion Arena. On the way to one of the games, an elderly man asked my father, “Do you remember a gentleman by the name of U.S. Reed? He ruined my summer one year.”
My least favorite is, believe it or not, Houston’s loss to North Carolina State in 1983. I was a pretty big Phi Slamma Jamma fan (except, of course, when they played the Hogs – then I hated them), and, heading into that game, I felt a rare bit of SWC pride and was really excited about seeing someone from the conference take home the trophy. (By the way, I also rooted for the Soviet Union in the Cold War and for Darth Vader in “Star Wars.”)
* Finally, prediction time. I’ve consulted the tea leaves and Ms. Cleo. Here’s what will happen: Memphis 77, Kansas 72.
(more at www.razorbackexpats.com)