As the oldest (and only girl) in a household with four younger brothers, people automatically assume that I grew up with Sports Center just as much as I grew up with Disney. False. While I -- like every Atlanta resident -- can't help but love the Atlanta Braves, you would never find me glued to a TV or screaming until my throat hurts. That was until I met my unexpected love, college basketball.
I'll never forget my first basketball game at Indiana University. Crowds poured into Assembly Hall, decked out in cream and crimson and full of exhilarating energy and pride. Earlier that evening, I decided to go "all out," too, rocking my red and white shirt and my new IU face stickers. Little did I know that I would stand in the same stadium as a senior with candy striped overalls on, yelling until my voice was completely gone. The IU Kentucky game was one of the best nights of my life. Yes, non-sports loving me had one of the best nights of her life at a basketball game. We beat the Wildcats right as the buzzer went off, and the entire stadium stormed the court. The thought of that sight still makes chills run up and down my spine.
If you had told the non-athletic, non-sports loving senior in high school version of myself that some of my best memories from college would be at IU basketball games, I would have told you that you were crazy. Maybe I would have laughed or questioned you, but today, there's no doubt in my mind that those moments at those games have been some of the best moments during my time here.
So how did college basketball turn me into a sports fan? Maybe it's the weird ritual that my best friend and I have before an IU player takes a foul shot or maybe it's banging on the wall when our seats are in the last row of the entire stadium. Maybe it's the fact that I get the chills every time the opening video comes on the screen, or maybe it's being surrounded by thousands of people who love the same thing. I can't pinpoint the time or the moment, but whatever it was, I fell in love.
During one of our school vacations, I went back to Atlanta, and one night an IU game was on. My entire family was shocked that I made them put the game on TV, but to me it was natural. I felt like the team was my family, and it just wouldn't feel right if I wasn't supporting them... even if I was below the Mason-Dixon line. That night, I had decided to make dinner for my brothers, but I was so enthralled in the game that I ended up burning the entire meal. Now that's dedication.
Whenever it was, and whatever it was, thank you, college basketball. You did the impossible. You turned me into a loyal sports fan, and I couldn't be more grateful. You can bet that New York City won't take that out of me when I move there in May. Look for me in my cream and crimson because nothing will ever replace the love that IU basketball has shown me.
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