...these four words, sent in a text message from a close friend on Friday night, have quintessentially defined my fan experience of the suddenly storybook college baseball season for UT. After deciding to spend the weekend at home in Keller with my family--who I grossly neglected during the Spring Semester--my friend sent this phrase in response to an explanation over my absence from Austin for the Regionals. Already unable to attend either the Super Regionals or the potential visit to Omaha, this text message proved prophetic, as I missed perhaps the most memorable weekend of NCAA baseball to ever grace the Forty Acres.
After the jump, I'll outline my own personal experiences with "regret games" and extend an invitation to the BON community to share their own regrets over missing the iconic games or moments that fans wait their entire lives to experience.
For the purposes of this entry, "regret games" mean a game in which you had the direct opportunity to attend the event, but, for some reason or another,did not actually make it to the game. This doesn't mean you weren't able to watch the game on TV or follow it over the internet, but that you were specifically absent from the stadium or arena for a transcendant game. In polling friends and family, it seems like most fans have such a story, one of which formed a major plot piece in "Good Will Hunting." These obviously differ in size and scale, as missing an epic regular season game (such as Durant's Erwin Center swan song against A&M) will always pale in comparison to a postseason or play-off battle (such as the Greatest College Football Game Ever Played).
As a UT and DFW sports fan, I've been pretty lucky over "regret" games. I went to both Rose Bowls. I went to Ohio State. I've been to every meaningful home football and basketball game over the last 6 years. I've been to multiple Big 12 Basketball tournaments and March Madness games, including the trip which led to my Greensboro Recap earlier this year. I've watched my beloved Texas Rangers lose to the Yankees in the 1996, 1998, and 1999 play-offs. I watched the Mavs beat the Spurs in San Antonio in Game 7 of the 2006 series that essentially determined which team earned the right to be screwed by Dick Bavetta in the NBA Finals. All in all, I've had a pretty good run, especially for someone still in college. My only "regret game" comes from giving up a ticket in high school for the 24-20 victory over Nebraska at DKR back in 1999, when Nebraska was heavily favored and ranked third in the country. But, even then, I had a pretty good excuse, as I was one of the starting pitchers in a doubleheader of freshmen fall baseball games for Keller High School and wanted to make a good initial impression within the program.
Until this weekend, I've never had a significant "regret game," and especially not a "regret game" with the UT Baseball team. I've attended a string of postseason games at Disch-Falk, but nothing to write home about. Military training opportunities eliminated any chances of attending certain Regionals, Super Regionals, or Omaha, which forced me to watch several games at Sports Bars and follow other games either online or through belated conversations with friends and family. In the incredible run of 5 CWS trips in 6 years from 2000-2005, I was literally never able to make it down to Austin or up to Omaha to personally experience any games that would fall into the "regret" category. This specifically includes being unable to make it to either of the dogpile games in 2002 and 2005.
By the time the 14th inning rolled around on Saturday night with Austin Wood still going strong, I was starting to feel extremely dejected over the decision not to drive down for the Regionals. Like many of you probably did, or perhaps even actually did, I briefly considered the option of making the 211-mile trip down to Austin in hopes of catching the tail end of the game. Instead, I kept watching the Gametracker like a hawk and constantly updated my family over the score throughout the evening. As the innings and night progressed with the neverending string of scoreless innings, we remained entranced by the steady stream of zeroes on the board and Wii-like characters on our computer screens. When the final out was tallied, I was able to share the moment with my family, yet longed for the missed opportunity of sharing the moment with all the fans who stuck it out at the Disch. My own "moment" was personal, which remained strangely hollow compared to the multitude of collective memories of celebrating with a few close friends and thousands of complete strangers.
A similar scene unfolded tonight, as we high-fived and danced across the living room when the scoreboard sequentially flipped from 10-10 to 14-10 and the Gametracker characters did their shuffle across the bases. Once again, I found myself hugging my family while ultimately resenting the missed opportunity of witnessing and experiencing the event firsthand.
In the hundreds of times I've been able to joyfully express "I was there" in regards to the 2006 Rose Bowl, I've reciprocally seen hundreds of wistful expressions on the faces of people who watched it from somewhere outside the stadium. Even from the students who rioted on Guadelupe, dove in the fountain, or saw the game with the closest friends, I still always seem to perceive traces of regret for not being able to say those three words--"I was there."
Until last night, and again tonight, I wasn't exactly sure how to process their feelings. One would think that a private memory of celebrating a memorable victory with multiple friends and/or family from an exterior location would serve as some type of consolation for the missed opportunity to celebrate with mostly strangers. But it didn't last night, it didnt tonight, and I'm not sure any watching party under any circumstances can ultimately make up for the missed opportunity of seeing a "regret game" in person. I could have been at the games this weekend, and, whenever they get brought up in a discussion over UT Sports or UT Baseball, the entire memory of the experience will be forever tainted by the thought that I should have been there. And I'm not exactly sure how that ever goes away.
Perhaps this is a selfish way of viewing one of the most incredible weekends of UT Baseball in its storied history. Perhaps it's just a feeling of regret for missing one of the best pitching performances in the history of baseball. Perhaps it remains merely a fleeting feeling over wanting to experience what could become the keystone weekend over a storybook and championship season. But maybe it isn't. Maybe it's just the reminder that we spend countless of hours watching and attending sporting events in the hopes of experiencing games and moments like the ones the UT fans and players experienced this weekend. For those of you who did, may the memories last the rest of your life. For those of you who didnt, I hope your excuse was better than mine.
Please feel free to share stories of your own "regret games" below...