So, that’ll be the only time I’ll ever get to see two fraternity brothers peck each other on the lips — soberly at least. The Kansas game was a game every fan dreams of — a come-from-behind victory with a buzzer-beating shot sending the teams into overtime. You watched it, you celebrated it, but did you get to see two heterosexual fraternity brothers — both with girlfriends — kiss through tears of joy? And then, just a week later, the tears were no longer those of joy, but of frustration and loss over a great season that ended just shy of a fairytale.
The emotion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is raw and real. The history of the fatal Fab Five timeout, the freshman starters, the most-likely final season for Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the rebooting of the once-great Michigan basketball program all combined to make this loss a hard punch to the gut.
My friend, who goes to a small liberal arts college in Vermont where the biggest sport is Quidditch, sent me this text: “Your boys put on a fight, but it was not quite good enough.”
What she didn’t understand was how the campus deflated after that. Melanie Kruvelis wrote a column describing how the scene late Monday night would have been a little different if we had won or lost. While I agree the actions might have been similar — people getting drunk, fights and burning couches — the atmosphere couldn’t have been more different.
We wanted to win not for ourselves, but for them. So that Spike could have his best game be the game that we won the national championship. So Trey and Tim could leave behind not only a legacy, but a national championship banner. So Mitch McGary’s breakout stardom would be complete. So the Fab Five would finally not be the yardstick that measures Michigan basketball.
The Shapiro Undergraduate Library, where I went after the game to study for an organic chemistry test, had a stillness about it. But unlike after the Kansas game or the Final Four, it wasn’t because students had said, “Fuck school, this is a once in a lifetime experience.” Instead, no one could focus. No one wanted to even try. We wanted to hold on to the last few hours where we could talk about the game because it was the most important thing on campus.
And then Tuesday came.
While the East Coast and even Ohio experienced a warm front, Tuesday morning gave Ann Arbor an overcast day with on-and-off rain — mimicking the tears of Nik Stauskas as he tried to complete his post-game interview.
The game was no longer the only thing on everyone’s mind. We had to deal with all the work we had put off. The referees’ bad calls didn’t consume every conversation. It was back to the real world, one that looked slightly gloomier and slightly harsher than the one we had left behind on March 29.
It’s a world where frat boys don’t kiss and grown men don’t cry. One where I don’t blow off studying the day before an organic chemistry test and students don’t drive 11 hours without a plan or a ticket. This world is a little less spontaneous, and sometimes I think that maybe that other world had its priorities a little bit straighter. Should I spend hours on end in a cinder block building to study or should I go outside and enjoy the world, do something impulsive and unplanned that might be bad for my GPA? I guess it’s true, but I must ask myself, “Why do I need five talented guys to make living my life to the fullest acceptable?”
Jesse Klein is an LSA sophomore.