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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tigers Win 78-63 Over UCLA!

We did it. We absolutely did it. Memphis is whooping and hollering today because we’re headed to the NCAA championship game. But, even better, we beat the giant UCLA! And, if it couldn’t get any better, we dunked them by 15 points – their biggest defeat of the season.

It was practically a grudge match around here. It was UCLA that bumped us out of the Elite Eight two years ago. And, the biggest blow, it was UCLA that tromped us for the national championship in 1973. Revenge is sweet.

I remember that ’73 game vividly for a number of reasons. A month or so before the game, I’d had orthopedic surgery on both my feet. It was an ordeal. They told me not to do both feet at once, but that’s not my style. Of course, I didn’t think ahead that having surgery on both feet would mean that I absolutely couldn’t place any weight on my feet for a while. I was stuck in bed. Finally, they put casts on both legs from my toes to my knees. The doctor repeatedly warned me that they weren’t walking casts, so I balanced precariously on crutches and the “knob” toward the heel of each cast.

March Madness reaches play-offs around my birthday. In the accompanying photo you can see me leaning on crutches while trying to cut my birthday cake in 1973.

Good friends Judy and Robert invited me to their championship viewing party and were kind enough to be responsible for getting the cripple to and from their gathering. I was staying at mother’s in her second-floor apartment, so going down those stairs and facing the return climb was daunting, but we did it. Once at their place, my friends settled me into Robert’s recliner (now, there’s a friend for you) and surrounded me with munchies and cokes.

I was grateful to have an outing with friends, and we had high hopes for the game’s outcome. A bunch of people were there, so there was great enthusiasm, excitement, cheers, and then moans. UCLA’s Bill Walton was just too much for us. It was a sad day in River City. And I still had those darn stairs to climb when they took me back to mother’s.

Last night’s win over UCLA was a long time coming, and the Tiger Nation is brimming over with anticipation for tomorrow’s game against Kansas.

Today I heard an interview with UT’s basketball coach. UT was the only team that beat us. He pointed out the strengths of both teams, but refused to pick a winner. He summed up tomorrow’s game politely by saying, “The two teams with the best athletes in the nation are playing tomorrow night.”

A local fan summed it up a little differently. He said: “Kansas, you can kiss our grits!” We’ll wait and see.

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