Tonight, my University of Kentucky Wildcats play the University of Connecticut in the NCAA basketball championship down near Dallas, Texas at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys (known to the locals as the Death Star). The game is scheduled to start at 9:15 p.m or so tonight. It reminds me of the first time I was allowed to stay up late to watch the championship game.
The year was 1977 and Al McGuire and Marquette were taking on Dean Smith and North Carolina. UNLV and UNC Charlotte played in the first game, with the second game starting well after my bedtime. I can remember my mother coming to get me from my spot a few feet in front of the television set to go brush my teeth and my screams of protest. I’d become a huge basketball fan in 1975 watching Kentucky lose to UCLA and John Wooden in the semis and couldn’t stand the thought of not watching the championship game.
I begged and begged, but my mother would not relent. I then turned to my father, my eyes filling with tears. Thankfully, my dad came to my rescue. He said, “The championship is only once a year, so let him watch it.”
My mom wasn’t happy, but she gave in and left me where I was sitting. I got to watch Marquette win the game and a new precedent had been set. From that point on, I got to stay up and watch all major sporting events, no matter how late they ended.
McGuire retired following the game and started a long career as a sports broadcaster, quickly becoming my favorite TV analyst. McGuire died in 2001 and took with him a part of my childhood.
Tonight, my twins want to stay up and watch the game. They are a few years younger than I was in 1977, but can I deny my kids the chance to watch the game? Not a chance.