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A Personal Touch to Senior Night

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"The decisions you make between the ages of 18 and 25 will disproportionately shape the rest of your life." --MAJ Ronald Mackay

This quote, which was often repeated to every cadet in my ROTC class, has proven to be especially pertinent to my life.  Like some of you, when I graduate from UT Law in May, I'll have spent every single one of those years--from 18 to 25--at the University of Texas at Austin.  Also like some of you, I fully expect that these will turn out to be the best 7 years of my life.  But, outside of the anecdotes and escapades which typify the college experience, what I'll remember most about my time at UT is my personal growth.

When I arrived at Texas in the summer of 2003, I was simply a bright-eyed freshmen (with braces!!!) who'd never spent more than a few weeks away from my parents.  The world was at my fingertips and contained endless possibilities.  Seven years later, the world--and my world--is much more concrete.  In only a few months, I'll receive my second degree from UT, take the bar exam, and start my dream job for the United States Army.  But, while I look longingly towards the future, I cant help but acknowledge the finality of the present.  In this, my 14th and final semester at UT, I'm constantly reminded that each event will be my "last" as a student.  I've been able to easily handle all the "last" events--including the DKR student swansong--but tomorrow is a different animal.  Tomorrow was supposed to be different.

Tomorrow, in a game that many of you have already probably decided to skip or not watch, Texas will play OU in the last home basketball game of the season.  It was supposed to be a battle that would help determine the Big XII regular season champion.  Instead, it's merely a game between the two most disappointing teams in the conference.  The champion for this regular season has long since been crowned, and it's not us.  When people keep asking me about how I feel about my last home game as a student, I'm really not sure how to answer the question.  The finality of this game is striking, yet in all the wrong ways.  What was supposed to be a coronation has evolved into an attempt at continued national relevance. 

After the jump, I'll try to contextualize what this game means, for both myself and the overall fanbase...

In the fallout of the latest loss, I think the psyche of the fanbase has largely been broken.  The fall from #1 has been heartbreaking, and I know far too many people who have decided to simply blow off tomorrow night's game against Oklahoma.  While we may not win the National Title--or even a single NCAA Tournament Game--the fanbase needs to recognize, appreciate, and understand the true context of tomorrow night's game.  It's Senior Night, and, for the first time in a long time, that really, really means something.

While our disappointments over this team have led to outbursts of anger, none of us can even begin to fathom the psychological and physical toll this season has taken on Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Justin Mason.  Each of these three seniors have poured out blood, sweat, tears, and shed at least 90 pounds for this program.  While each of them has their own limitations and have been disappointing in their own ways, none of them have ever quit on this program.  For four years, each of them have been model players for a model program, and, as a fan, I'm grateful for all of their sacrifices.    

For four years, each of our seniors have been picked apart for what they're not.  Most notably, they're not Kevin Durant, and they're not DJ Augustin.  But they're also not Mike Williams, Dion Dowell, CJ Miles, PJ Tucker, Daniel Gibson, or Harrison Smith.  They've been here, they've stayed here, and they'll each walk away with their degrees after the season.  And tomorrow night, for the final time, they'll walk out onto the floor of the Erwin Center.  They deserve to receive a thunderous ovation commensurate with their sacrifices for the program.  Sadly, I'm not sure they'll get it, and that pisses me off.  It's an understatement to say this season hasn't gone according to plan, but, when it comes to honoring the departing seniors--especially these seniors--that shouldn't matter.   

If you are coming, then please arrive early enough to see the ceremonies.  If you aren't coming, please re-read the previous paragraph.

"Your last game as a student isn't necessarily saying goodbye, but it really does represent a significant step in life. When you come back to football and basketball games as an alumni, it's great to be there, but it's not the same.  In fact, after you move into the "real world," nothing is really ever the same." --My Cousin 

As many of you know, I'm one of 16 people from my family to attend the University of Texas.  Supporting UT has always been--and will always be--a significant part of my identity.  While I was going through high school, this primarily entailed supporting the football team, as it was hard to watch many UT basketball and baseball games on TV.  But, ever since I arrived on the Forty Acres back in 2003, I've gone on a whirlwind romance with the Erwin Center and the basketball team.

As I look forward to tomorrow night, I cant help but think through the treasure trove of memories that I've accrued over the last 7 years.  In fact, I just jotted down a ton of them on a legal notepad, and it's a pretty impressive list.  The list includes meeting Rick Barnes, meeting various players, traveling to Conference and NCAA tournaments, Wabashing on the court, and witnessing the bevy of marquee home games against top-flight competition.  I'll never forget the environments during the showdowns against Villanova, Kansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, or even against Michigan State only two months ago.  When the Erwin Center gets rocking, it's truly something special. 

And, as I sit here looking at this list of memories, I cant help but smile.  Upon further reflection, the smile isn't just about basketball--it's about being a Longhorn.  I'm so blessed to have spent the past seven years supporting the UT basketball program, but it goes even further than that.  I'm so blessed to have associated with all the students, faculty, administrators, and alumni of this University.  And, until you finally leave this place, it's hard to put that in the proper context.       

I may not be able to continue watching games from the front-row, but I'm finding comfort--real, true comfort--in knowing there will be thousands of students to take my place.  And I'm finding comfort in knowing they'll be able to experience similar games and make their own similar memories.  And I'm finding comfort in knowing that these things will be written about on BON.  It's my hope that this website and others like it will continue linking up memories for past, present, and future Longhorns. 

I've got 40 minutes of basketball and one silly little dance left in my time as a student.  And, even though the matchup itself has been diminished, I'll never stop taking pleasure in beating the hell out of OU.

Hook 'Em.