Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: The golden ticket

There I was, spinning around in circles in the desk chair, doing a drum roll on the end of the table and jumping up and down in the air.

I screamed.

I clapped.

I even cried.

I was in the law library, an area where the drop of a breadcrumb could be heard from the fourth floor. I was studying for midterms.

But, my concentration wasn't on my textbook.

The University of San Diego men's basketball team was playing in the West Coast Conference semifinals against Saint Mary's, and my ear was glued to the speaker of my laptop that blared the semifinal game in the crowded silent library.

I ignored the glares of overachieving law students because it is moments such as these that define you as a college student. On game days putting on your school letters holds more meaning. And this is when you say, "I'm with the team."

There was the first overtime.

Then there was the second overtime.

Then there was the buzzer.

And there was a chance, a chance for USD to be the WCC champions. A chance that was an unfathomable dream to the ESPN anchors.

And I got that feeling. The feeling I once had of being "that" team, the one who beat the odds. I remember the timeout in overtime, trying to concentrate on the special play but distracted by the future thought of winning. And I remember my coach saying that these are the games we practice for, that this is the reason you play basketball, for this feeling he said.

A part wishes I could have that feeling back again, of being the player not the spectator. But then I wouldn't have had the opportunity to stand in line for two hours to get the last ticket.

And see the student line wrap twice around the student center, all of them hoping that they would get one of the golden 400 tickets. I wouldn't be able to be the out of control fan with a two-toned painted face or the girl starting the wave. And I wouldn't get the chance to memorize the first and last names of the Gonzaga players to mock them during their free throws.

As a former athlete, this makes you appreciate a fan's dedication. And you ask yourself, who do I play for? Some athletes have said, we did this one for you pointing to the crowd that rushed the court. It is like a toast to the fans. Here's to you.

It is like Christmas morning. Or a first kiss or getting nominated to be the captain. That is what winning is like.

But I have found that being a part of such a great thing is only like the previous things but not the same. The feeling can never be duplicated. Therefore, I have concluded that the closest thing is being a dedicated fan.

There is something about sports that make you want to be included. When the ticket you have in your hand is priceless.

These fans are like a team.

They wear the same shirt that reads, "Beat Gonzaga," decide on one cheer to yell obnoxiously throughout the gym and warm-up before tip off at house parties that can be seen as their locker room. They are a team. And I am satisfied with being part of that again.

When I heard the final score announced on the radio of my computer Sunday, my roommate and I shoved our belongings in our bags and made a beeline for the car. We rolled all the windows down, cranked the music up and made our victory lap.

As piles of students and alumni filed out of the gym, we honked and chanted "USD, USD."

They cheered and crowded the car re-enacting the last few seconds of the game. And it didn't matter if some of these people we strangers because we were all fans.

For the first time the campus came together for one goal - to be a fan.

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