We arrived at the airport around 5:40 am (our cab driver got lost in our neighborhood and was late picking us up) and were greeted by very awake, very enthusiastic AirTran/Southwest employees and a line of black and gold.
The lines moved quickly and even if they hadn’t, the overall mood was something I’ve never experienced in an airport terminal. Joy. This was apparent by smiles, gestures and the obvious word of the day, Shockers.
At times, I felt I was watching an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Anytime someone said Shockers out loud to or near our patiently waiting group of Wichita State travelers, the group would erupt into cheers.
From “Our flight to Atlanta will be boarding soon for the Shockers” (roar) to “Welcome aboard, Shockers” (Roar) and “Good luck, Shockers” (ROAR).
And the adrenaline rush continued as we landed in Atlanta and exited our plane on the tarmac to three awaiting motorcoaches who escorted us, correction police escorted us to the Georgia Dome for open practice. Dad decided this is the only way to travel. I agree.
After we got over the initial awe regarding the size of the Georgia Dome (it holds 78,000+ for football games and 56,000+ for basketball), we settled in to watch the open practice of the Shox. Even with WuShock plastered all over the big screens inside the dome, Wichita State on the marquee, and our boys in black and yellow running the floor, it still felt surreal. We were at the Final Four. Wichita State is in the Final Four. At one point, I leaned close to dad and said, “Dad, can you believe we’re here?” He held up his hand for a high-five. Enough said.
After Marshall interviewed with Jim Nance and addressed Shocker Nation, we headed out to see the immediate sites around the dome, plus grab a bite and a few beers. We toasted to “Playing on Monday.”
Back at the hotel, we finally checked in, received our game tickets, and visited the hospitality room for Shocker fans. Comfortably sitting in the Onyx bar, we Shocker watched, waving at people we knew, hugging old friends, and enjoying the continued ambiance of Shocker joy. Our favorite couple from previous NCAA tournament trips, Scott and Vicki Brooks, joined us, both ecstatic to be reunited for a tournament, especially this tournament. Over dinner at Brick Top, we again toasted “Playing on Monday,” which seems to have taken over the “Our bags are packed” mantra.
One thing is for sure, we are running on the last drops of adrenaline, taking time to read through our programs, check the itinerary, and as dad catches up with the Golf Channel, I revisit our first day in Atlanta. Quite amazing. So amazing I’m not sure how to write about all the days events. There were omens, such as the gentleman who is an usher one section over from us at Koch and who always looks for dad and I and waves (it’s become part of our pre-game tradition) appeared suddenly just a few rows away from us during the practice. I noticed him just as he turned to see us and immediately we waved.
And, I met and took a photo with Cliff Levingston, one of our Shocker legends and a man whom I watched play with the Chicago Bulls. Another omen.
So, I end this post exhausted, but elated and hoping for a good nights sleep as we have a long but exciting day ahead of us on Saturday. But again, even as I sign off, I have to remind myself we’re here at the Final Four and not just any Final Four. Wichita State is playing in the Final Four for a chance to advance to the championship game. Our bags are unpacked in Atlanta, spilling black and gold all over our hotel room, in anticipation of playing on Monday.