Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dear Memphis Tigers:

As a University of Houston fan, I feel your pain. Indeed, it was in the National Championship Game exactly 25 years ago that my beloved Cougars choked away a title in the waning seconds. Seeing you guys choke away your shot at the championship yesterday brought back some pretty unpleasant memories for me.

And what a splendid choke job you guys managed! As somebody who has seen his teams pull off some monumental chokes (not just the Coogs in 1983 but also the Houston Oilers against Buffalo in 1993), I have to give you credit. Up by nine points with two minutes left, you fail to make clutch free-throws down the stretch, you allow Kansas to get off a game-tying three-pointer with 2.1 second left (for the record, most teams would have fouled in that situation) and you let Kansas score the first six points in overtime to put the whole thing away. Wow!

As msnbc.com’s Mike Celizic says, the pain you guys are feeling right now is never going to go away. “What happened to the Memphis Tigers on Monday night isn’t that kind of loss,” he writes. “Theirs is the kind that lands on your skin like a branding iron, burns a white-hot path into your tissues, drills into your bones and takes up an aching residence there forever.”

I wanted the Tigers to win, since our schools have some much in common. Houston and Memphis are both members of the same conference, they are both urban commuter schools, and they both have to suffer constant denigration from arrogant flagship state universities whose initials are U.T. and whose colors are orange (of varying shades) and white.

And, after tonight, both schools have something else in common. They're both chokers. Houston in 1983. Memphis 25 year later. When the game was all but over, when the national title was within our grasp, both schools pissed it away.

At least you can take solace in the fact that your choke job does not have a nice little video clip that goes with it (the Kansas three-pointer doesn’t count because it only put the game into overtime) that CBS, ESPN and all the other networks will play every time they talk about “stunning upsets” or “great moments in sports.” Houston fans, on the other hand, are destined to be tortured for the rest of eternity by that clip of North Carolina State inbounding the ball, Lorenzo Charles jumping over a clueless Hakeem Olajuwon for the game-winning dunk, Jimmy Valvano running out on the court like a crazed lunatic… Man, it makes me sick just thinking about it.

Even without a visual, though, you guys will be just as sick 25 years from now.

Trust me.

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