There’s a local Minneapolis bar that serves as the gathering place for Kansas Jayhawk fans. The other night, as the Jayhawks played an Elite Eight match-up in the NCAA Championships, my husband and I ventured there. Imagine if someone offered every preschooler in the country free tickets to Disneyland and then gathered them all in the vestibule of Space Mountain. Now, double that. We got to the bar an hour before game time and found Standing Room Only.
Our affinity for KU began six years ago when our oldest son became a Jayhawk. Throughout the years, many of our kids’ friends have taken up the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk,” cry. We meandered around the bar looking for familiar faces and found a good friend of our middle son at a table with her brother, sister and about five others.
She greeted us warmly. She’s extroverted and charming and caught us up on her busy, college life. My husband and I stood next to their table as the game began. We didn’t really talk to the others. The brother, who was a great friend of our oldest son, sat across the table. The older sister we knew only slightly.
As our first baskets circled around the rim and popped out, a young woman at their table stood. She was too nervous to sit, she explained, offering my husband her bar stool. When my husband reached for it, the sister, grabbed it and shoved it under the table, saying the bar stool belonged to them.
A bit later when I yelled at the TV about an unfair call, the brother eyed me and said with much disdain, “the call is against them.”
Admittedly, even after watching the game for years, I basically understand it’s good when the ball goes through the hoop. All other happenings—fouls, timeouts, changes of possession—escape me. Thank goodness for announcers and fellow fans.
I didn’t understand why the siblings seemed so angry. We didn’t use their table. We did breathe the nearby air. I suppose it was because they felt two adults in their fifties were cramping their style. I guess we should have found another spot to stand. But it was one of those times when it feels as awkward to leave as to stay.
The brother and sister did not say another word to us. As we left for the night and pointedly had to cross their paths to exit the bar, they glared. On the street, we ran into another of our son’s friends. He threw his arms around us. We bemoaned the basketball loss, but began chiding each other over differing NFL loyalties. His friendliness made me confident we didn’t smell or have open lesions on our exposed skin.
When I woke this morning, I perseverated on how angry the twenty-five-year-old man and not quite thirty-year-old woman had been. My stomach felt tight and my skin itched. It was as though I’d time-traveled back to the junior high cafeteria where any misstep meant social suicide.
Over morning coffee I complained to my husband about their coldness. “what had we done to upset them?” He looked at me with bemusement and began to laugh. “Who knows? Who cares?” he asked. “I’d go back next year just to stand by them again and shout, ‘Hey, our crowd from last year!’”
Maybe my husband was more popular in Junior High than I was. Maybe, as a man he was born chromosomally-lacking the “why doesn’t that person like me fretting-gene.” Whatever innate chutzpah he was blessed with, I’m going to try to mimic it. And next year, when my beloved Jayhawks likely lose again in a too-early round of the NCAA tournament, I’ll look for the bar stool hidden under their table, pull it out, park my tush and say, “There you guys are! We’ve been looking all over for you.”
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