Our Bags are Packed: Still Representing

It’s the day after the semi-finals and if one more person approaches us and asks if we have tickets to sell for the championship game, someone might get hurt, either their feelings or physically makes no difference to me. Nothing worse than ticket vultures.

They were descending upon us while we stood near our seats after our game. Class act. They were waiting in the lobby of our hotel this morning. Either these people are incredibly ignorant, financially desperate, stupidly brave or all of the above. Apparently, some Shocker fans decided it was better to sell their tickets, thinking a little warm cash in their pockets would negate the sense of loss they were feeling. I don’t pretend to understand those fans, because for us it was a no-brainer as a) we want to attend the championship game because as college hoops fans this is the Motherland b) we want to experience it all, the entire weekend. As one women bejeweled in black and gold said to us in the elevator, “it would be like to going to the Super Bowl and leaving at halftime.” c) We are proud fans who want to represent our team and Shocker Nation. Not attending is akin to being a sore loser, in my opinion, a “we lost, I’m outta here” mentality. That’s not how I was raised. Showing up in our colors makes the statement that we back our team, we love this game, we still belong.

So, how do we put distance between us, the ticket vultures and those who traded their championship tickets for an expensive meal and a bottle of wine? Head to major league ballpark, Turner Field, to watch the Braves versus Cubs. First, let’s send off our team.

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The players and especially Coach Marshall were very appreciative of the sendoff, thanking us as they worked their way to the bus. While they were exhausted physically and mentally, Hall, Williams and Wiggins stopped to take photos with fans. Marshall walked through the crowd slowly, acknowledging each one of us with a nod and a  thank you. My wish as their bus pulled out of the drive was that a huge group of fans would be awaiting them at Koch Arena.

We watched as their police escorted buses turned the corner to head to the airport, then made our way to the trains. Apparently, most Final Four fans had the same idea to take in a baseball game, so instead of eating a hot dog and drinking a cold beer while soaking in the early April sun in the outfield, we settled for the dog and beer while sitting in the upper level along third base in the shade. And, I mean upper level. We had a great view of the city, but I forgot my dad does not like  heights.Oops. He’s such a good sport and said he would get used to being in the “nosebleed seats” and he did, although we moved down to the concourse after the seventh inning stretch for him to partake in the ballpark dog tradition.

The Braves won 4-1, but we did get to see Mike Bowden pitch an inning for the Cubs. Mike was a teammate of my nephew, Jeff, while at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Il., and was initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Because it was so crowded, we didn’t get to really see the entire park or the museum, which was disappointing, but not as disappointing as the trash. Possibly due to the large crowds, there were empty beer cans, food wrappers, flyers and other trash items in the street as you approached the park, but most horrifying were the cans and water bottles scattered at the base and actually on a few of the large sculptures of the retired numbers of former players. It was very disrespectful to see these monuments in Monument Grove treated in such fashion. But, if we ever get the chance to visit Atlanta in the future, I would definitely take in another game as it is extremely easy to get to the stadium on the MARTA and the free Braves shuttles, and I want to get the whole experience minus the crazy crowds.

After the game, we took the MARTA back to downtown Atlanta where our group split up. Brad, Josh and Bill decided to fight more crowds and attempt to get inside Centennial Park to see Sting and Dave Matthews Band as part of the NCAA festivities, but dad and I had enough of being shoulder to shoulder with strangers and headed to the hotel for a nice meal and to watch the women’s basketball semi-finals. We can never get enough basketball.

The third day of our Atlanta trip was topped by all of the respect given to us by strangers, either Atlanta natives, or fans of the Blue, the Orange or Cards. Again, all impressed with our team and our fans, quite a few stating we received two unfair calls in few minutes of the game with the double foul and the jump ball, and praising Coach Marshall and his staff. Plus, I spent a lot of the day educating people about Wichita State, answering questions about our school, where we were located, size of enrollment, and just what is a Shocker? An Atlanta woman told me I should put in for work hours as I was marketing the university as an alumna, staff member and devoted fan. I laughed.

I like to think that every day I represent the institution I dearly love, whether it be in the way I carry myself while wearing the black and gold or explaining what it means to shock wheat, I am more than glad to carry the torch of WSU. I’m thankful our team has quadrupled my opportunities to share with the world how outstanding life can be in Wichita and Wichita State. My father and I have known it all along. Marshall is right when he says, “We belong,” but I wonder if he knows it extends beyond our men’s basketball program.

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