Mere hours after landing in Minnesota on Thursday, I found myself in the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott near U.S. Bank Stadium, dumbfounded, listening to the legendary Bob Ryan tell Mike Williams and I his favorite Larry Bird stories.
I was like a kid in a candy store, leaning against the wall and sharing a beer with the Boston Globe icon as he painted a picture of how Larry Legend ended a Celtics practice before it even began with a half-court shot from the famous winking leprechaun.
Then, a couple of nights later, we run into the great Mike Breen, whose famous “BANG!” is an exclamation I’ve heard countless times in my living room growing up. Next thing I know, I’m sharing a drink with him, asking what it’s like to work with the hysterical duo of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Ryan and Breen were living proof, right before my eyes, that you can make it in this business and still welcome amateurs like me to the table with open arms.
The funny thing about this whole trip is that the games haven’t even been the best part, even with the unthinkable ending of Auburn-Virginia, when the boos made a stadium sound like a grand army of owls had invaded the building. No, the best parts have been outside of U.S. Bank Stadium–the talks over dinner, the chance to meet people I have no business being in the same zip code as, watching The Twilight Zone (the O.G. one) with Mike in our hotel room, and just being around the sport I’ve loved since I was double-dribbling in the YMCA youth league on Shelby Street on the south side of Indianapolis.
I really owe the Sports Capital Journalism Program big time. The process has been as smooth as can be this week. I have been treated like an old friend, and I’m grateful for that.
None of it feels like work. My byline is appearing on NCAA.com to interview incoming Hall of Famers, write on an instant classic Final Four game, watch the 1979 national championship game and to stroll right into the Virginia locker room like I’m supposed to be there.
This entire experience has basically confirmed to me that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.
By Zach Griffith | @ZachGriffith17