Actually, I haven't had a day like this in a long time, so I suppose that is a good sign. We have a baseball game tonight, so hopefully seeing the team end a loosing streak will help matters. I need these kind of days to help remind myself why I love what I do. Otherwise, it would just be another job. That wouldn't be a good thing.
So anyway, for those of you not in the know, here is a long excerpt from an email I sent to some folks. It basically tells of my Final Four trip and everything that transpired. It is hard to believe, but worth the read:
Tuesday March 29, I was very fortunate to obtain two tickets to the 2005 NCAA Men's Final Four, held in St. Louis. Our Vice Chancellor was kind enough to offer some extra tickets with me, and I jumped at the chance. I'd never been to a final four before, and for those of you that do not know … I grew up watching Carolina. Actually, I grew up wanting to BE Carolina basketball. I loved Coach Smith and idolized all of those players I grew up watching. So to have a chance to watch them win a national title was very exciting.
So my mother flew into Nashville from Winston-Salem, NC, April 1, and Saturday morning we drove up to STL. Easy drive, and as soon as we arrived, we found a parking spot near the Edward Jones Dome, and started wandering around. We met up with some of our friends, the Blixts, a family with Carolina daughters and Illinois parents. I believe they all received funny looks throughout the weekend.
After hanging out on packed 2nd Street for awhile, we all made our way to the dome. As we approached the Dome, the lines to get in were outrageous. It looked as if it wasn't even moving. We finally made our way to the mass of people, and began to wait in the mob. Mom went through her purse, and couldn't find the tickets. Now, if you know my mom at all you know she gets a little crazy if things aren't exactly in order. Growing up with this for the past 28 years, I know sometimes she just gets a little jumpy. So I told her to look carefully, and after another search through the purse it was confirmed … our tickets were gone.
Mom was a mess … she felt like it was her fault and was so upset. I'm not sure if I was just really calm or just not believing what I was hearing, but I steered us back to the car to check and see if the tickets had been left inside. No luck. We made our way to the box officer, where we were told to file a police report. Did that. We returned to the box office, and a supervisor came up and told me the NCAA had decided to no longer reissue tickets for those lost or stolen. I felt defeated. I wasn't sure what to do. We were at the building doors, ready to watch the Tar Heels, and no such luck. I immediately called a good friend of mine, Tom, who works for the NCAA. This guy is the man. No question. He gave me a few numbers to call, but eventually Saturday's games were viewed by jay and momma lowe at a bar close by. As much fun as that sounds, it really wasn't. We watched as Illinois took it to Louisville and then the Heels pulled away from Michigan State.
We then drove to Glen Carbon, IL, where we stayed with my friends Nikki and Tracey. I woke up Sunday not sure if we should just give up and drive back to Nashville or to keep working on these tickets. After several phone calls to folks back at VU and several talks with Tom, I decided to stick it out. Mom and I did some sight seeing … of course the Arch was on the list. Tom felt so sorry for us, he gave me a VIP pass to the Dasani Fest, a large outdoor free concert … Joss Stone, Gavin Degraw … the VIP pass allowed us to enjoy some free beverages while taking in the music. We ended Sunday evening with a very sub-par meal at KC Masterpiece. So sub-par in fact, we were told we didn't have to pay. The food was horrible and the service was worse.
Monday morning rolls around and good old Diane is able to fax in a letter to the Jones Dome stating yes in fact I was a VU employee and yes I was given tickets in section 338. The box office manager calls me and tells me we have "seat locators" for the game, but if the people with the actual tickets show up we are to leave the building … WHAT?!?! So I phone Tom again and actually run into him and his family at lunch. While there, Tom makes one more call which seals the deal. Mom and I are in the dome for the national championship.
So we spend the rest of the afternoon just taking in the atmosphere of STL. We make our way to the game about 2 hours prior to tip-off. We are about 30 minutes from tip when this very old gentleman (and I use the term gentleman loosely) walks up and asks me to move from his seat. I immediately wave for the guest services employee, who then radios her supervisor. While we are waiting on the bosslady, this guy proceeds to tell me his son bought the tickets Saturday and he did in fact sit in one of the seats Saturday night. He tells me how he's gone to every UI homecoming football game since 1643 and how they can't just kick out an old man. So the super comes around and goes through her manual. After reading what she assumed to be correct, she pulled me and my mom from the seats. She was ready to escort us out of the building, but finally I was able to persuade her with a few name drops. So she kept us in the concourse and called her supervisor. This lady was awesome. She came in, asked me my side of things, had the older man removed and called the ticket office for confirmation. Once she had done so, she pulled me aside, told me all was right in the world and we returned to our seats. As we walked back, another person with the other ticket had shown up. At this point, I was so tired of dealing with the mess my conversation with him was pretty much like this:
Me - "Hey buddy, I hate to tell you this but you are about to be removed from the facility."
Him - "WHAT? I have the ticket for this seat."
Me - "And I respect that, but these seats were stolen on Saturday."
Him - "We'll I'm not moving."
Me - "Yep, time to go."
Him - "No."
Me - " MA'AM! Need a little help here."
From that point on, although a bit rattled, mom and I were able to watch the Heels almost give away the championship. It was a great game, a great atmosphere and a wonderful experience. I was thrilled to see my mom's team win a national title, one she'd been cheering for since she was a baby. She actually said she wanted to cry at the end of the game, but I think the emotional rollercoaster that was the weekend pretty much took everything out.
So that was my experience with the final four. I wish it had been a little more enjoyable to start, but it was worth it in the end to see UNC win the title. That really is the truth. To see a team be successful, one you've been following for years, is a great feeling. I wish our circumstances could have been different for the semifinal games, but alas it created a story for the ages.