I needed time to reflect.
There was a period of about thirty minutes Saturday night that I felt bad about the loss. I felt a mixture between shock and disappointment. The buzzer went off and I silently walked upstairs into my bedroom, fully prepared to turn off my phone and go to bed. I had hoped that this was all just a nightmare and I would have the ability to wake up from it.
A feeling of guilt came over me. Why was I disappointed? Because "my team" lost? I wasn't on the court. I did not contribute to the game. Last time I checked, my name is not on the Kentucky Basketball roster. Neither is any of ours.
If we felt bad, imagine how the players feel. They literally have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this season and into this program. They've been working since August to perfect their game and be the best that they can be for their futures, but for our entertainment as well. As a team, they did not have an off night for 38 games. I was about to give up on them after their 39th? That was selfish. This group of guys deserve more than that.
I turned the TV on just in time to watch the press conference. I realized that this would be the last time I see Karl, Willie, Aaron, and Andrew all wearing their uniforms together. I couldn't pass this opportunity up. My outlook changed. I no longer felt bad because the season was over. I felt bad because I knew the players were hurting. I knew Cal was second-guessing himself. As fans, our names are not on that roster - but that doesn't mean that we can't help them. We can't go to bed yet.
Coach Cal has said numerous times that the season does not end for him until June 28th (the NBA Draft) and I agree. The season does not have to end on a night of disappointment and disbelief. Our season can end when the players realize their future, either as a student that still wants to develop his game next season, for us, or as an NBA Draft Pick.
This amazing season can end if we let it. Wisconsin wins. Kentucky loses. We go to bed and wait for Big Blue Madness...
...Or we can look fondly on this season and appreciate what the players have done for their university, for their community, and for each other until June 28th when a NBA team announces they would like to select a student from the University of Kentucky. Affirming their belief in that player as much as we have either this last season or the previous two.
The season can end when our players have a smile on their face.
"You're not stealing my joy." - Coach John Calipari, March 7th, 2015.