Yea, Shockers! (but I'm still a KU fan)
What a weekend! The Shockers are going to the Sweet Sixteen. The haughty Hawks have been given their come-uppance. There IS justice in the universe. I should be so proud. But I'm not.
I have lived in Wichita since 1967 and in the area all my life. My friends of long standing are rabid Shocker fans. Their wardrobes are built around black and gold. They contribute money, buy season tickets and give WuShock themed gifts at the holidays. Why can't I feel their joy, get into the general madness and learn to Play Angry?
I just can't help it. I am a Jayhawk fan. I didn't go to KU or have a kid who did. It just sort of happened, way too far back to explain. I can remember listening to KU basketball games on the radio way back in the early 1950s. I remember cheering for Clyde Lovellette and BH Born, rejoicing over a national championship in 1952. Then came Wilt Chamberlain and two years of national prominence back around '57 or '58.
From that time forward I was a Jayhawk fan. I wanted to go to college there, but money was short so I settled for Emporia State. While I was there, I rooted for the Hornets. But as soon as I was out and gone, I went back to rooting for Kansas. One of the big reasons that I, an avid reader, bought a television set was to see the Jayhawks play and to hear the Rock Chalk chant that marked another win.
Now that I think about it, I could have become a KU fan because my dad (with whom I had a somewhat contentious relationship) was a fan of the K-State Wildcats. His parents ran a boarding house on Bluemont Avenue just a block or so off the campus.
It's not that I didn't have any Wichita influences. My grandfather played four sports at Fairmount College (WSU's original name) just after the turn of the century. He played basketball when it was really played in a wire cage to prevent the ball going out. (Which is why some people to this day call basketball players "cagers.")
Dad took me to a couple of Wichita University games back when Oscar Robertson and Cincinnati were in the league.
I feel bad about not pulling for the Shockers. I don't know any of the players, but I did know Evan Wessel's grandfather, Everett. He was a huge man, about 6'10" tall and played for the Wichita Vickers team in the old NIBL, an AAU industrial league. He came to Douglass where I was in high school to coach basketball. Then, when I transferred from West High to teach at North, there was Ev, still mammoth. We worked together for what I remember as almost a decade.
Still, from age 5 or so, I never wavered from the Jayhawks. Come to think of it that was about the time I formed my baseball loyalties, too. I started listening to games on the radio with my grandpa during the great years of the New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were just kids who loved to play the game then.
Again, my dad was a Dodgers fan. This was when they were still in Brooklyn. We had many interesting World Series seasons between the Yanks and Dodgers back then.
When baseball came to Kansas City with the Kansas City Athletics and we finally had a team in the area, I stuck with the Bronx Bombers. I saw a few of the A's games and cheered politely, but they just weren't the Yanks.
You'd think that now the KC Royals are a creditable ball club, I'd be a big fan. But I'm not. I still follow the Yankees in the box scores and now on MLB cable channel. I just can't seem to change loyalties. Of course I see a few games in Kansas City each year and follow them in the playoffs but they are a default position, much like WSU.
The less said about football the better. I was a KU fan when Gale Sayers, John Hadl and John Riggins were playing, but that was eons ago. KU football doesn't interest me nor does KSU. And I'm glad that WSU has the sense not to spend the fortune it requires to be competitive in football. I don't miss it. Pro football is king these days. I'll watch the Chiefs but probably not buy any team clothing.
Looking back, I wonder if I just picked KU and the Yankees because they were powerhouses. And if I am just too old and stubborn to change. Or if, now that Dad is 15 years dead, I could change teams. But the answer is "Probably not!" I may be too old now to change and I doubt if I want to.
So, now that KU is out, I'll quietly root for WSU to play deep into the tournament. I may even get tickets for a series up in Kansas City to watch the Royals play. I can be interested in both teams without feeling the deep ties that I have for KU and the Yanks. But the only team garb that I have or will buy is still that from my old favorites. I'd feel silly in a Rockies shirt.
So be careful when you form these team loyalties. You may be stuck with them for a long, long time.