Monday, March 1, 2010

Refuse to Lose...

That is the motto of our University of  New Mexico Lobo basketball team. Now me and the Lobos go way back..I arrived in ABQ when I was 19 years old, that is 1973 if I have my math correct. I was a Lobo fan back then..It just seemed second nature to get behind the local basketball team. I had done that all my life in little Findlay, Ohio where I grew up, where the whole town backed the high school basketball team, the Trojans. I use to listen to a portable radio to Lobo games and once in awhile, if I was lucky, I got tickets to the Pit, where seriously if you have never been, you must go. It is kind of a fish bowl, with the basketball court at the bottom and Lobo fans are SERIOUS about their Lobos. The sound of the crowd on a good night is deafening! It is known to be one of the LOUDEST basketball venues in the country..

Anyway, back in the day when I was a mere child (19), I use to ride my bike down Central Ave. in ABQ at 8:00 PM, to get to my shift called the Bar Run at Village Inn Pancake House. The bar run is where all the folks who have shut down the bar come in and have their "breakfast" of pancakes in order to sober up. This meant I rode my bike, back down Central, at 4:00 AM home to what is now pretty much the hell hole of ABQ..Back then it was safe.I never worried about getting hurt. This was 1973 mind you! Sometimes I would just hitchhike to work..Seriously! I use to regularly wait on a man named Norm Ellenburger, who was one of the greatest Lobo coaches ever. He coached the Lobos from 1972-1979 until there was Lobo-gate, a recruiting scandal that left the program in tatters...His team was ranked in the top ten..

Fast forward a few years or decades and we have Season Tickets to the Lobo games from 1987 to probably around 3 years ago..We saw some good games and a good coach for a few years. Then we saw a few really, really bad coaches come through. We went to the NCAA tournament a few times...never really got to far..I think the best was 2nd round back in the 90s..We were die hard Lobo fans..Then as life went on, and the team got worse, we finally gave up our tickets. Oh the few games we went to here and there since then were OK,  but never did we have a good team. I can count on one hand how many road games we won in 5 years previous to this year's team.

Enter Steve Alford three years ago to the NM basketball program..Who the heck was he? Oh just another "bad coach" recruited to "better the program", or so I thought. I do not think we were the only fans that gave up our season tickets. There were many "fair weather" fans out there. I do not think I even followed the Lobos that closely the last two years..I admit..I am a fair weather fan. We had gone through so many bad years, bad, REALLY bad coaches..I just could not bare to watch anymore..

This year: OK, so we were gone the first half of the basketball season..we hear word from home that the Lobos were doing well this year. Say what? They were picked to finish somewhere in the middle of our Mountain West League. When we got home, we started paying a little closer attention. We went to a game. The Lobos had only lost three games all year! Suddenly we came from virtual obscurity to ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation. I started listening to the post game shows again..I am not believing we gave up our season tickets. All the games are sold out by this time..We have watched on TV as the Lobo kids have been behind at the end and pulled off a victory at least four times in the last month..Holy crap!

Here is the deal: this team cannot lose on the road..They cannot lose period. We just pulled off the biggest upset of the year, winning against BYU, at BYU in front of 22,000 people...I was SCREAMING at my radio once again. We were behind and just pulled it off one more time! I am in shock..At the airport yesterday, 1500 people greeted the team coming home from Utah. It was mayhem!  The Lobos are serious contenders in the NCAA tournament. They are now ranked 8th in the nation!! They could actually be seeded 3rd in the post season tournament!

This takes me back to my Norm Ellenberger days, the bar run days in which we had a REALLY REALLY good basketball team...I am sad we cannot get tickets to the last home game this Wednesday. The team is 23 and 3. That is only three losses all year!! I am stunned and happy for those kids and Albuquerque and all the die hard Lobo fans. It is front page of the paper almost everyday here in ABQ.

I watched a video today of the players after the BYU game. Here is the deal. Their motto is We refuse to lose! And that is how every game I have seen looks..I am thinking what if I incorporated this into my life-I refuse to lose!  It just proves that no matter what anyone says, a team with the same mentality and winning spirit can make anything happen..Even if we suck the rest of the year, I have learned from this team of young Lobos (most of them will be back next year).

I refuse to lose!

Oh and we got tickets to the Mountain West tournament in two weeks in Las Vegas so we can see first hand our team do their refuse to lose thing!