2022 NCAAT I - We Begin
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Zoom in on that photo. There's a cell tower worker at the very top. You can see that they're strapped to the tower, so I'm sure it's "safe", but that would never feel "safe", right? Somehow they had to get from down here to up there. I guess it's possible that the crane lifts them to the top, but they probably climbed up.
No thank you.
I took that photo somewhere along I-70 (safety first) on my way to Pittsburgh. The man or woman at the top of the tower was signaling to the crane operator (waving arms) and it caught my attention. I know that every single antenna at the top of every single cell tower was attached to that tower by a human person standing atop the tower, but still, seeing someone standing way up there was shudder-inducing.
And it made me immediately think about the post I wrote before the Loyola game last year and the song by David Wilcox that inspired it. Here's your snippet:
I don't want to play this game. I don't want to go to bed because I have to wake up tomorrow and that's when the game happens. Just get me to 2:30 EDT tomorrow and tell me the score. Seriously, sometimes I hope I completely oversleep and wake up after the game is over.
Thought of a song that describes what I'm thinking. Farther To Fall by David Wilcox. It's a song about relationships. When they start to get really serious, it's more exciting but also more frightening. And he relates it to walking along railroad tracks, balancing on the rails, and then you get to a tall bridge. It's not harder to balance on the rails - you just have farther to fall. Some lyrics.
Balance is no harder after all
Out across this bridge so tall
Balance is no harder
It's just that you've got farther
Now you've just got farther to fall
Yeah, that's totally it. That's how I feel about tomorrow (and, should we win, will increasingly feel about the four games after that). It's not any harder. We just have farther to fall. I think I'm now afraid of heights.
It's been a year, but the trauma of that loss is still very real for all of us, I think. We fell so incredibly far. And the free-fall was almost worse than the impact. Now, here we are again, facing our fear of heights. Friday or Sunday could be so incredibly painful. Or, by Sunday night, we might be at our highest point as a fanbase since the Rose Bowl in 2007.
That's what is laid out in front of us. If we climb the tower, hook up the new antenna, and return to the ground safely, we'll have the thrill of the accomplishment (and some decent money in our pocket). If we slip and fall again... I don't even want to think about it.
There's a church right by my hotel, and the bell in the church tower rings every 15 minutes. It just rang for 5:30 pm EDT, which is the time I assigned myself to check the score in the Iowa game. Give me a moment.
OH MY GOD. The only clue I had with this game was that when I checked something on Twitter like an hour ago there was a tweet from a national college basketball writer that was just a spider emoji followed by an eyeballs emoji. So I figured that meant that Richmond was hanging with Iowa. I didn't expect them to WIN. Holy crap.
See, this more or less cements my point here. In fact, I need to go tweet that I'm not going to say a single thing about the Iowa loss. It can happen to anyone. The tumble that Iowa fans are feeling right now - on top of the world seeing all of these "I have Gonzaga and Iowa in the final" tweets the last three days, and now it's over before the sun goes down on the first Thursday - is just so horrific.
Man, no one is going to want to win the Big Ten Tournament ever again.
Back to my point. Seeing that worker atop the cell tower today was one massive GULP for me. As I begin my writing journey with the 2022 NCAA Tournament - I'm gonna blog it like it's Camp Rantoul in 2010, and I don't know if I'll get to roman numeral VII or roman numeral XXXVII - I just want to start there. It's early evening Thursday. By early evening Sunday, I'll either be at my most satisfied fan moment in 15 years or I'll be completely and totally devastated.
I should take that a step further. Say we do get to the Sweet 16 and we face Arizona in San Antonio. That regional is Thursday-Saturday. So one week from right now (this very moment) we'd be close to tipping off in the biggest Illini basketball game since 2005. One week of my life. And I could be at the greatest moment by next Thursday or one of the worst tomorrow night.
Those are the stakes. I wouldn't trade them for the world, and the stakes are what would make the feeling of next Thursday so amazing, but there's a lot at risk here. As Iowa fans are finding out right... now as all of this begins to fully sink in.
My room service is here, so time to eat dinner. And watch some college basketball because I'm no longer at risk of accidentally seeing the Iowa score. Much more tonight, and tomorrow, and hopefully for several weeks. I'm not sure I even know the roman numeral for 50 but let's try to get there. (Wait - it's L. Super Bowl. Duh.)
Just have to walk out here on this beam and grab the antenna that the crane operator is swinging my direction while the wind blows me around and I try to keep my balance up here 200 feet off the ground......