UVA Basketball: Thanks again for the feels

uva basketball national champs
Photo by Chris Graham.

We all watched the 2019 national title game yesterday, because it was on, and because we knew that Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome were going to be live-tweeting on the UVA Basketball Twitter account.

Good news: our kids still won.

I’d watched the replay on YouTube a couple of times, but never straight through, like yesterday, because I’d get too impatient, and want to fast-forward to the Dre three from the corner to send it to OT, the Dre three with two and change to go to put our guys on top to stay, the Braxton Key breakaway dunk, Dre grabbing the last rebound and flinging it toward the sky.

I’m getting the feels again; give me a moment.

Talk amongst yourselves.

The topic: did that really happen?

My Final Four weekend was a blur. I had to wriggle out of a weekend assignment calling VMI baseball on ESPN3 to be able to get there, but to get Saturday and Sunday off, I had to work the Friday night game.

Meaning I couldn’t fly out until Saturday morning.

Leaving me at the mercy of planes being on time, which, fortunately, they were.

Did I mention that I have a morbid fear of heights, hadn’t flown in 19 years, had vowed to never get back on a plane again?

What got me through the Richmond-to-Charlotte and then Charlotte-to-Minneapolis flights: Xanax, and plenty of drinkie-drinks at the airport and on the plane.

Actually pretty smooth flights, both, but my anxieties burned through all the meds, mercifully, because when we landed, crisis.

I got off the plane at what was 3:30 local time, thinking I had until 6 p.m. to get to the football stadium for the game.

Local start was 5 p.m.

Damn time zone change nonsense.

The airport train to the stadium was a half-hour.

Then I had to get my credentials, outside the stadium in a trailer, then it was fighting my way through 72,000 people to get to the media area.

Long story short, I got to my seat on media row, behind the basket near the Auburn bench, about five minutes before the tip of the Auburn game, after having worked a baseball game the night before until 10 p.m., getting to bed by midnight, getting up at 5:30, to the airport by 7.

The game was a blur. I remember thinking the game was over when Ty missed the halfcourt heave after getting fouled, then the PA announcer in the stadium telling us it was over after Kyle missed the three from the corner.

And excitedly grabbing the arm of Zach Pereles, who worked the UVA basketball beat for us last season, good timing on his part, when the officials went over to the table.

And saying, as Kyle hovered around the area behind the free-throw line, OK, the most important free throw in the history of the free world is this first one.

And then, when he made the first one, OK, now the most important free throw in the history of the free world is this second one.

And then after he made the third one, and Auburn flung a pass downcourt as the buzzer sounded, having to fight my way to the Virginia locker room, through the angry Auburn student section.

Monday night, my seat on media row was unfathomably upgraded to second row, two seats over from center court, which I was reminded of yesterday when I saw the back of my oversized bald head on wide shots, and when Jim Nantz said something in the second half about a Texas Tech kid whose shot he tried to say looked like a three, when it was obvious that his feet were a clear couple of feet inside the line, and Nantz talked about how our seats courtside were actually a few feet beneath the playing floor, and it wasn’t easy for us to see certain things.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it was Dre who made the three to tie it with 12.9 seconds left until the timeout fiasco at the end of regulation, and was able to glance down at the official play-by-play.

I just knew after Key blocked the shot to send us to the OT that there was no way I was going to survive another five minutes of basketball.

I tweeted to the effect that I couldn’t feel my hands, and I wasn’t exaggerating. My hands were tingling.

And then, in an instant, it happened. Dre flung the ball skyward, maybe 20 feet from where I was sitting, and confetti started to fall from the ceiling.

After getting back from the locker room, I walked out to the floor and scooped up as much of the confetti as I could into my official-issue ACC Basketball media backpack.

Seeing the confetti falling on TV yesterday, I thought about my confetti, and how I need to amend my last will and testament to make sure that it’s buried with me, hopefully no time soon, but just the same.

We needed that, yesterday.

I know I did.

Story by Chris Graham

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