The surprise in knowing

I’m not pyschic. Never will claim to be. Never will pretend to be. Never will actually be (duh).

But I knew I was going to be in a world of hurt on Sunday.

Knew it.

In fact, I’d known it for a week.

Why? Because if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a pretty intense KU Jayhawks fan. Heck, it’s hinted right there in my bio with a loyal “Rock Chalk.”

And though my team has been in the top ten for pretty much the entire season, I knew they’d lose on Sunday.

How’d I know? Because the NCAA set them up to lose.

Not that the March Madness governing body gave the Jayhawks a crappy seed—no, the No. 2 seed they had was probably better than they deserved.

No, because the NCAA was looking for a game with a storyline. It seems like the last couple of years that rather than just blindly seeding, the basketball gods have been looking for built-in headlines. Just my opinion, of course. But this trend was most definitely obvious when they seeded the Midwest draw, lining up a meeting between my Jayhawks and a program that has had a great couple of years, Wichita State.

The Jayhawks and the Shockers don’t play in the regular season. They haven’t in nearly 30 years, when Wichita State called off its yearly meetings because they were getting beat by 50 points a game. Not very much fun for them, obviously.

But since the program’s resurgence a few years ago, the Shockers have been eager to play the Jayhawks on the regular. Something Kansas Coach Bill Self is opposed to, preferring to use non-conference games to travel to big recruiting areas like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Of course, the Shockers and their fans don’t buy this. The Jayhawks play other in-state schools in exhibition (Emporia State, Fort Hays State, etc.). Therefore, they assume KU won’t play ball because they don’t want to get beat by the little guy and have their basketball dominance be challenged in-state by a much smaller school.

And, though I’m a Jayhawk, I’ll admit there’s probably some truth there.

The NCAA knows this. And they know this is exactly the sort of drama that makes money. It plays well on TV, sells tickets, greenlights souvenirs.

So, what does the NCAA do but set up a second-round match up between the two schools.

The moment I saw that, I knew KU wasn’t going to make it out of the first weekend. In fact, I wasn’t even totally sure they’d make it out of the first game—because it would be just like them to lose so they wouldn’t set up a game against the Shockers at all. But my boys won Friday, as did Wichita State. And I knew that by about 6:30 on Sunday, I wouldn’t see anymore of my Jayhawks for another year.

You just can’t win against a team that fired up unless you fight fire with fire. And you can’t fight fire with apathy or dread.

And my Jayhawks lost.

The foreshadowing worked.

I’m going to try to remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’d had all week the next time I plot a story with something awful building in the background of my main character’s life.

Because this past week should feel exactly like the run up to that character’s inevitable loss.

There it is: what we can learn from college sports as writers, without even having to watch the game.

Now, on to baseball season. Go, Royals!

8 thoughts on “The surprise in knowing”

  1. And right there with that building dread, for me, was just the tiniest, tiniest bit of hope that I was wrong, which made the inevitable loss even more of a gut punch. Sooo useful to build tension. Great lesson for writing. Rock chalk!


  2. Yes, it doesn’t feel really dreadful unless there’s a tiny spark of hope that whispers, “Maybe they’ll pull it out.” At least in fiction, after the crushing defeat, we can have our characters emerge triumphant (or mostly so) in the end. Great post!


  3. This is a great example of drawing emotion from real life to apply to our fiction. I don’t know about expectations for KU, but I usually root for the underdog, and those few times an underdog pulls out a win feels so sweet–just like fiction, too!


  4. Nothing like telegraphing the outcome. I keep telling my students not to do it. But sometimes we can’t turn away from the accident happening in front of our eyes.


  5. OOOH, I like that term, Cynthia. Calibrating tension. That’s perfect. And that’s exactly what this was. Oh well, I couldn’t look away and all it got me was a lot of mental cursing on a Sunday night. Still: Rock Chalk!


  6. I agree with Sue Star: it’s oh so valuable to be aware of the emotions of these moments so we can draw on them. Good for you for recognizing it and making a conscious effort to remember for later!


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