I think I am in stage 4.
In fact, I typically loiter here from the moment the final horn ends Gator basketball season until sometime the following week.
This is why an Elite Eight game on Easter Sunday has been something less than ideal during the past two years.
According to the Kiebler-Ross model (don’t ask— I don’t know Kiebler from the cookie elf), “Depression” is the fourth of five grief stages.
It is also the reason I have been avoided like a Biblical-times lepper during my family’s Easter dinner.
“He’s doing ok—- I think. Just leave him alone,” I hear my siblings, aunts and parents whisper.
Inexplicably, my wife does not heed this advice. God bless her, she insists on asking: “How are you feeling?”.
My response is typically something less than audible and more than dismissive.
We have been married for nearly 5 years and together far longer. She knows my passion for basketball, though certainly does not understand it.
Perhaps only my dad does. He introduced me to the game as a toddler and infused a passion following of his Alma Mater, Iona. Some of my most vivid memories are of the two of us driving 45 minutes to be near campus so to pick up the radio signal for away games. We would order a bag of White Castle hamburgers— park, eat, listen and cheer. The ride home was either a joyous recount of victory or a sad, silent trek.
So, if you are reading Dad — and I know you are — this is your fault.
Admittedly, this season feels a bit different and there is hope that I may move through the grief stages a bit quicker than a year ago.
Ugh. That loss to Louisville was brutal. I was fully prepared to embark on another Final Four trip—- though I dared not think or make such an utterance during the game. A friend of mine, however, did not know the impact of a devastating jinx and sent a text during our late lead that read: “New Orleans, here we come”.
Less than a half hour later my wife cautiously returned home to find me catatonic on the floor. I was laid on my back, directly below the television, staring at the ceiling in state of manic shock. In fact, I may have somehow morphed Stage 1, “Denial”, with Stage 4.
“Oh no! Did they lose,” she asked.
“Don’t let this ruin your day, honey”.
I think she knew how silly this comment was the moment it slipped out.
Heck, we were married on a Friday so not to interfere with football, and literally timed our child’s conception so not to have baby in March.
Sadly, that is not a joke.
Anyway, suffice to say, it did ruin my day.
And so too was last Sunday ruined.
But I do feel like I am breaking through. This morning, I got out of bed, showered and shaved for the first time in four days.
I’m kidding! I’m not that bad. Well, maybe I am, but as an employed germaphobe that scenario could never happen. I would lose my job and my sanity.
Anyway, back to the stages and my personal progress.
As I said, I have been in Stage 4 since the almost merciful end. Perhaps even earlier.
And I do not skip stages.
Nope. Cookie elf or otherwise, that Kiebler character knows what she is talking about.
I raced through those first 3 stages like a Wolverine through a Gator zone.
Stage 1: Denial.
“There is no way we are down 13-0.”
“We are not starting like this again. This can’t be happening.”
“I don’t know who that is out there, but it’s not Eric Murphy.”
“He didn’t just miss that lay up.”
“I don’t believe he just fouled on a 3-point shot.”
“There is no way. Our defense is not this bad. We have a great defense.”
“Michigan is not this much better than us.”
Stage 2: Anger
“How the &#%?! did he just miss that?!”
“I can’t even watch this!” <storms out of room and watches on different television for reason really related to superstition>
“Take him out of the game! Sick?? I’m the one getting sick!!”
“Somebody guard the guy before I swish this remote right through the flat screen!”
“Get out of this damn zone!!!”
“Alright, never mind— go back to the damn zone!!”
“Somebody shoot a 3, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!”
Stage 3: Bargaining
“Can we just get a stop? We can worry about scoring later.”
“Alright, now we need to worry about scoring. Can we just get a basket to break the ice?”
“If we can just get these lay-ups to drop in, we will be okay.”
“Alright, how about we stay within 10 points?”
“Ok, ok — can we keep it within 15 points?”
“How about 20?”
“Can we at least close the half strong? We may have a chance.”
“If Patric could just make one free throw…. <CLANG>…. Ugh.”
“Alright, please— just a couple stops on defe <SWISH> — Ugh.”
“Please just let this end.”
And so, here I am at Stage 4, where I have been since Sunday.
But ya know what? I feel better just writing this column!
Maybe I have moved to the next stage. Stage 5
Let me check—- ACCEPTANCE.
Nope. Not yet.
It’s all your fault, Dad.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Such is life as a fan.
I will see you all next season.
Speaking of which, are there 5 Stages of anticipation?