Having grown up in Cleveland I have struggled with having something in the world of sports to cheer for. The city of Cleveland has offered nothing in the way of happy sports moments. The repeated Browns losses to the Broncos were crushing, though being in my youth I didn't realize how big the games they were as the team would disappear for a few seasons before making a pathetic return to the NFL. The Indians had the best American League team in the mid-90s and came up with a grand total of 0 World Series Championships. The Atlanta Braves in 2005 and the Florida Marlins in 2007 made sure to keep my Cleveland teams without a major championship. And there might be a professional basketball team located in the city, too. I think they are called the Lebron James's. I long for the days of Mark Price. That guy was terrific.
The Cincinnati Reds in 1990 gave me a brief fling of glory, and I still pull for them to this day. However, if it came down to it, I would want Cleveland to crush Cincinnati, no doubt a product of unquestionably picking the Browns over the Bengals for so many seasons.
But we now open then weekend that celebrates my greatest sports moment ever. We have come upon the 4 year anniversary of the great 2003 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament.
I understand fully that we are talking small potatoes as compared to the Super Bowl or the World Series. However, the Mid-Con tournament was no less intense or meaningful and in many ways will far exceed the emotion and joy should Cleveland ever capture a football or baseball crown.
Having travelled with the team throughout the season as color commentator, I got to know the players and coaches which greatly amplified my desire for them to succeed. And succeed they did.
The whole weekend in Kansas City is full of stellar memories. From the ridiculous beds and pillows at the way luxurious for student broadcasters at the Westin Hotel to a Bruce Vilanch look-a-like waving foam fingers like a maniac, I can replay many great moments in my head which will likely bore many of you who will read from here on out while bringing a smile to others of you.
From the women's side:
-Jamie Gutowski's put back with no time to send the women through to the semi-finals
-Western Illinois' inevitable collapse in women's bracket.
-Leslie Crane blaming her seniors in the post game press conference and Zane Teilane's inability to speak after the disaster.
-Leslie Crane then standing by herself, eerily, in the back hallway of Kemper Arena.
-Valpo's women defeating the hated Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts in the tournament final to advance to the NCAA tournament.
(Who was the ORU player who had a broken leg, didn't play at all the last half of the season, then had a play run for her in the final seconds which involved her jumping to catch a half court pass? Regan pops to mind?)
From the men's side:
-Valpo drawing preseason favorites Oakland in the first round.
-League leading scorer Mike Helms hopping up and down on his way to picking up a stupid technical foul all but rendering him useless for the Golden Grizzlies' failed upset attempt.
-Watching the perplexion of play-by-play man Todd Ickow when some us proposed asking a Valpo coach if Kikas Gomes was overlooking the tournament for the upcoming Angolan Olympic Games.
-UMKC overcoming Oral Roberts, sending the Golden Eagles home in the first round.
-The praying Mabee Maniacs somberly leaving the arena and our walking through their student section right after the loss to more intensely enjoy their demise.
-Valpo falling behind to hometown favorites UMKC by 17 in the semi-finals.
-Greg Tonagel nailing consecutive big 3's to bring the Crusaders within single digits to close the first half on their way to eventual victory.
-Valpo playing IUPUI in the championship game - the same team that had defeated Valpo a year earlier leading to the often replayed Ron Hunter fish flop.
-Homer Drew calling time-out to go to a 4 guard line-up that he had not used all season in an attempt to isolate Kikas Gomes inside (a strategy that worked for two straight possessions putting Valpo ahead).
-Odell Bradley leaving the game with a leg injury, then pouting when being given the tournament's MVP trophy despite his team losing.
-Being the lead story on Sportscenter for making the NCAA Tournament.