Being a sports fan is weird.
Fans project so much of themselves into teams that will ultimately succeed or fail, independent of the actions of fans. We wear our lucky socks, whisper silent prayers in the stands and memorize our favorite players’ stats but none of that really matters. The work the players put in on and off the court and the coach’s game plans will decide the outcome. We’re just there to watch it unfold.
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, two busloads of Bulldog fans embarked on an 800-mile journey to the Sanford Pentagon Arena in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to watch the biggest basketball games in Ferris State history unfold. I was on one of those busses.
It was a long, grueling drive. Laughs were had. Sleep was lost. Fast food was consumed in exorbitant quantities. It was the quintessential 15-hour cross-country road trip.
Yet at the end of the week, the Bulldogs were national champions. And that made the return trip a whole lot nicer.
When we collectively watched Northern State’s final desperation shot fall short and the final score read 71-69, pandemonium ensued. Confetti rained as the team charged onto the court. It’s been said that Ferris fans were outnumbered 10:1 by Wolves fans during that game with an arena record-setting attendance but that final roar from Ferris fans near and far culminating the entire 38-1 season may have reached the loudest decibel that gym has ever experienced.
That’s how it felt, at least. That’s how it still feels.
That’s how it will continue to feel for Ferris seniors Noah King, Drew Cushingberry, Greg Krusniak, TyQuone Greer and Peter Firlik, who are the only players in the NCAA Division II Tournament that get to end their college careers with a win. They left it all on the floor along with every other person on the Bulldogs’ bench.
I’m not a Ferris basketball player. I’ve never been a basketball player and would be lucky to go 4-10 from the free throw line. But I am a Bulldog and if you’re reading this, chances are you are too. The 17 players, the coaches, the student managers and scouts earned that national championship not for themselves but for Bulldogs everywhere.
It’s the team’s accomplishment but we all have the privilege of taking part in the revelry. Congratulations Bulldogs, YOU are national champions.
Click here for more coverage of the Bulldogs’ journey through the Elite Eight and beyond.