It took 11 games into the season, but I am fortunate to have been on the sidelines to experience it in action. Yes, Caltech won -- and we did it with focus and energy and an unbelievable crowd.
Why make such a fuss about one basketball game that ended in a W? Because the men's hoops program at the California Institute of Technology had not won a game the past 30 tries.
I have never witnessed such pure passion and undying emotion from a Division III fan base. It seemed as if there were more people scurrying in by the minute as onlookers cheered while trying to sneak text messages to their buddies, writing to them, "You better come to Braun Gym -- something special is happening."
Believe it. To be a part of a program that has not had the opportunity to feel the joy of victory very often, a simple win is a defining moment. We talked about it as a special expereince beforehand -- something we have been working so hard for after playing an extremely tough non-conference schedule that included three top 30 teams and facing other opponents that have won 20 games in a season.
The energy from the stands sparked us. More importantly, the focus of our players -- especially the ones that played 40 minutes -- was indescribable. To feel the emotion, the clutch plays, and the pace of the game as it slowly ticked away -- in an agonizing, yet controllable way -- with us holding onto a 4-point lead as we managed to can free throws (28 of 33 for the game) was a mesmerizing experience. It was almost as if I had imagined it -- after all, I had -- and the work ethic and relationship building we have done since September was shining through, apparent in our players' eyes and body language and eventual celebration.
We were up by as much as 18 and led the entire game. A group of some of the smartest students in the world, many of whom never even played high school basketball, were winning -- and securing -- victory in a college basketball game with courage, resiliency, and sound basketball plays. I was so very proud to be a part of it.
It was for real.
What could be better, you ask?
Winning a conference game...and then another one...