|Austin side trip, San Antonio 2018|
This past March/April I experienced a fun weekend in San Antonio attending the NCAA Men’s Final Four. For some, this is a “bucket list” event, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t mean for this to sound smug or as if I’m bragging, but this past Final Four was my 16th time attending this extravaganza. It never gets old.
Most people get their Final Four tickets through the lottery system. How have I been so “lucky” all these years? It’s not the luck you think it is – I have access to tickets through my job. We are told every year, “It’s a privilege, not a right. ” I take that very seriously.
My first experience was in 2000 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. I was able to get two tickets and took my dad. We sat in the upper level on a baseline side and we were so far away I couldn’t tell who the players were. I could see the jersey colors, so I could tell the teams apart, but no faces or numbers. Thank goodness I brought binoculars.
Since then, I have attended nearly every year.
2003 New Orleans
2005 St. Louis
2008 San Antonio
2012 New Orleans
2018 San Antonio
My usual crew consists of two of my high school friends (Julie and Krista) and Krista’s husband, Kenny. A couple times people have swapped out (Alyce and Tammy), but our core group has remained consistent. I think of it as my little Spring Break. And as the years go by, it seems that we four are more sporadic with the time we spend together in Indy, so it’s a nice time to regroup and spend quality time together.
|with Jim Harbaugh, New Orleans, 2003|
|Julie and Krista with Sugarland, Atlanta, 2007|
|in our Carolina gear, San Antonio, 2008|
|with Ty and The Duck, Detroit, 2009|
|the girls, New Orleans, 2012|
|National Anthem, Atlanta, 2013|
|I'm BIG, Dallas, 2014|
|Salute Presentation, Indianapolis, 2015|
We share one hotel room on these trips. Two double beds, with the married couple in one bed and Julie and me in the other. I mentioned this arrangement to a male friend before this year’s trip and he was shocked. “You stay in one room?” He said he would have to have his own room. We’ve been friends for so long, it’s no big deal. We are familiar with each other’s travel habits and know who takes longest to get ready in the morning. Kenny gets his alone time by getting up early and having his coffee/reading the paper in the hotel lobby while we get ready. We change clothes while he’s away or in the bathroom. We’re adults and it’s never been an issue. I do remember to bring ear plugs for Kenny’s snoring.
Sure, we have our moments of indecisiveness (where to eat or what to do next) and getting “hangry”. We don’t get lost too often (Julie is our navigator). We’re on the same page sleep-wise (we like it and don’t normally stay out too late). All-in-all, it’s the perfect set-up.
I feel lucky that I have friends who want to go to the Final Four every year. We all played basketball at one point in our lives. And despite me playing the longest, Krista is way more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to players and coaches. Especially those from her favorite team – North Carolina.
During the years I’ve skipped (for reasons ranging from “it’s too far/expensive” to “I don’t want to go back to Houston” to "I'll stay home and go to the women's Final Four"), I enjoy seeing the TV broadcasts, complete with the compelling stories and game commentary. But nothing compares to being there. And due to my seniority, my seats are much better than they were way back in 2000.
Here’s to many more years of fun adventures with my Final Four Four!