So, I got the chance this past Friday to do something I never got to do as a kid. Go to the NCAA Tournament. Not only that, I got to take my oldest daughter, Abby. She is 11 and loves playing basketball. She has played on 3 teams, winning one championship. The other two teams, we will chalk those up to learning experiences. She loves most everything about it. Learning, shooting, playing, practicing, etc. Friendships I think are a big part of it too.

We set out Friday before lunch for Syracuse, NY and the Carrier Dome. Stopping along the way to have lunch, we also hit the crazy tourist shop. JUNK-OLA! But of course, I bit and got a couple of things. We got to Syracuse shortly after 5pm. The parking for the game was CRAY-ZEE! We ended up parking somewhere past a cemetery and a bunch of frat houses.

Once parked, we hopped a shuttle to the game. Then, they let us off somewhere near the arena and we trekked it the rest of the way in. We did a little shopping, ok, $80 or so. A hat, a shirt, two teddy bears, a program, you know the drill.

Then we found our seats. That place is HUGE! It seats twice what the PNC Arena, home of the NC State Men’s Basketball Team, seats back in Raleigh, NC. Luckily, not all of the arena was being used. Soon enough, warm ups were taking place and then tip-off.

The first half ended positively and then we started on fire the second half as well. Shortly thereafter, we pulled an NCSU-er. We melted. Imploded. Died.

Why did it have to happen at both mine and Abby’s first NCAA Tourney game? Couldn’t we have made it one more round, to the Elite Eight, and then hell, lose by 50 if you must. But, instead, at the end of the night, I had a little girl crying in her daddy’s arms. Defeat sucks. Whether directly or indirectly, it sucks.

We talked, I learned a lot about her, and heart. How much heart she puts into something. Not just for herself, but on my account. I learned that I think she was more heartbroken for me. On the drive up I explained to her I never got to do this with my dad. He always chose my oldest brother to do this stuff with. ACC Tourney, NCAA Tourney, Augusta for the Masters, etc. Not me. I didn’t measure up. Funny, I am the only kid in the family who lettered in high school though!?!?! I think she took it to heart and thought the trip from her standpoint was more about me and my first experience. I didn’t mean for it to be that way. But, I think in the end, that is how she treated me. And honestly, I am speechless for it.

I told Abby that one day, hopefully we can make it back again. We had pizza, soda and shared a great time. Then, within 30 mins of getting back to the Jeep, she was asleep. Like that. Then, I drove back through snow and ice to Erie, PA. I pulled into the driveway at 3:58 am. About 5.5 hrs after leaving Syracuse.

We may never get the experience again. State may never make it, she may learn to hate State or sports altogether once she figures out boys. But, we got this one chance.

All I know is I got 16 hours of quality time with my oldest baby. And I wouldn’t trade it for nothing. Not even a national title.