Some of you (particularly the Americans among you) may have noticed that there’s this little athletic ritual this time of year called the NCAA basketball championships and that a little ballclub from the University of Kansas called the Jayhawks are in the Final Four.
It seems negligent for me not to say anything about it here :) especially when two of the team members have been my students.
I can get excited about basketball in moments such as this, but basically I’m a lousy sports fan. Sports just don’t do much for me, and when I do get emotionally invested I find the stress of the game more painful than pleasurable (will we win? 16 second left and they have the ball and the best shooter in college basketball? agh! they shoot! agh! they miss! YES!).
Still, when a game ends and you can hear nothing but car horns honking in celebration for the next several hours, it’s hard not to get caught up in the joy that is exuberant local fandom.
Especially when you look at Facebook, and find that friends who no longer live here have promptly changed their pictures to KU flags or Jayhawks. When you look at Twitter and find alumni friends in other cities writing “omg! omg! omg!” during those last 16 second of the game.
When my local paper published pictures of fans celebrating downtown after the victory, my first instinct was to post the link to Facebook, knowing that our alumni who are not here would want to feel that connection to Lawrence, Kansas. As a journalist for the Topeka paper described it:
Lawrencians didn’t attend the actual game, but they certainly made memories. The celebration was something the likes of which I’d never seen, and might never see again. And amongst all the madness, it seemed like fans were behaving. Sure, there was sloshed beer and shouting, but there were families smiling and strangers embracing. (source)
And my remote friends did appreciate the link. They couldn’t get downtown, but at least they could browse the pictures and imagine what it felt like. And they could do that within hours of the victory when the intensity of emotion was all still there.
All of which makes me appreciate the many little ways in which the net can facilitate people’s sense of connection to geographic place and how fandom can invigorate and keep those place-ties alive well past one’s time living there.