On the Ball: The Agony of Defeat

March 27, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

As a KU fan, I haven’t always taken season-ending losses very well. I’ve learned a lot of what not do.

This year’s heartbreaking defeat could have been far worse, had the Jayhawks season come to an end much the way Wichita State’s 35–0 tear was wiped out by Kentucky in the Round of 32. More on that later.

Five years ago when my Jayhawks bowed out to Michigan State in the Sweet 16, my remote control took the blame. Long story short, I had to actually get up and walk over to the cable box to manually change the channels until my new remote arrived two weeks later. Lesson learned.

In 2011, I was on my way to cover the Regional Final matchup in Newark between North Carolina and Kentucky, while simultaneously listening to the play-by-play of Kansas get schooled by big, bad 11-seed VCU. Once I arrived at the arena, I spent the first 15 minutes of my time there running around like a crazy person looking for anyone with an explanation of what on earth happened. In the process, I nearly missed my prime seating assignment for what turned out to be a great game. Lesson learned.

Of course, venting is usually only step one on the road to recovery. The next is denial.

In 1997, after my then 34–1, No. 1 ranked Jayhawks lost to fourth-seeded Mike Bibby and the Arizona Wildcats in the third round I boycotted the rest of the season, not wanting any reminders of that painful game. This would have worked much better had I not run my mouth to anyone who’d listen that Kansas was going to cut down the nets that year. Lesson learned.

Seven years earlier, I was a seventh-grader watching Roy Williams assemble his first great team. The1990 Jayhawks went 30–5 and spent 14 weeks (out of 16) ranked either first or second in the polls, yet somehow they faltered in the second round to seventh-seeded UCLA.

I was stunned.

Still wanting closure, I watched the tape over and over again, hoping that somehow history would somehow play out differently each time (I wasn’t the smartest kid). It didn’t happen. Lesson learned.

In 2007, the Jayhawks made it all the way to the Elite 8 before rolling over against UCLA, in a loss where they looked nothing like the 33-win team I had witnessed. I couldn’t resist venting to my Dad about how KU had actually lost the game, more than UCLA winning it, forgetting that my unsympathetic father was still a rabid Bruins fan from the Wooden era. Lesson learned.

So anyway this past Sunday, as Kansas went through yet another March meltdown, my brother helped me through it, letting me vent over the phone about how tight they play in the postseason under beloved-coach Bill Self. He even politely withheld laughter when I suggested the NCAA change around the postseason format to give the top four seeds home-court advantage through the first three rounds—thus negating any future KU heartbreak.

After hanging up, I decided to try something different—root for a team that wouldn’t break my heart. Hello Wichita State.

Lesson learned.