August 16, 2011
Well eventually we were going to come across a person who didn’t grow up here (besides myself). So today we present to you Brandyn Campbell, better known to her fans as the Philly Sports Muse. If you went to Penn State, you may actually enjoy her memory, as it has to do with a loss by one of your chief rivals. And strangely, numerous members of the 1992 Ohio State team she talks about have Philly connections.
My strongest and most vivid memory has to do with a team and a sport that may surprise you.
If you’ve ever met me or stumbled upon my blog, Philly Sports Muse, you know that I am a football fan. Yet my early days of sports fanaticism were devoted to another sport.
My junior high and high school years were spent in Michigan. I rooted primarily for the Detroit Pistons. It was the era of Isaiah Thomas before the sexual harassment allegations and Dennis Rodman before he lost his mind.
The only thing I loved more than the Pistons was Ohio State’s basketball team (sorry, Penn Staters). The team at the time included some names that may be familiar to you as Philadelphia sports fans.
My beloved OSU team was coached by Randy Ayers, who followed my inspired lead and made his way to Philadelphia as assistant coach of the 76ers for 6 years beginning in 1997, then was head coach for the team from 2003-2004.
Jim Jackson (right), OSU’s star who in his younger days went by Jimmy, was my hands down favorite member of the team and overall favorite college athlete. He also made his way to Philly for one year, along with a a whopping eleven other stops in the NBA.
Lawrence Funderburke was on the team, a player who sadly had a short and lackluster career in the NBA. Chris Jent, my second favorite player on the squad experienced a similar fate in pro ball as Funderburke. But as luck would have it, Jent too made his way to Philadelphia in 2003 as an assistant coach for the Sixers.
Back in Columbus, Ohio State was the #1 regional seed two years in a row during the NCAA Championship, in 1991 and 1992. Both years they failed to make the most of the opportunity.
I don’t remember much about what happened in 1991. However, the tragedy of what occurred in ’92 sticks with me.
OSU was in the Elite Eight. The last minutes of their game against Michigan’s Fab Five were gut-wrenching, as they always are in college basketball. Ohio State was sure to win. They held a 4 point lead with a few minutes left. But Michigan came back to tie the game, and a last second shot by the Buckeyes rimmed out.
The game went to overtime, which Michigan dominated, talking trash the whole time. The Fab Five, with a 75-71 win (here’s an article about that game written by Mike Missanelli), were headed to the Final Four. Ohio State was headed home.
It felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I couldn’t believe that the run was over.
Somehow after those last minutes I wound up on the floor of my house. And there I sat for a half hour, uttering a word to no one.
Though the teams and sports I root for now are different, I will never forget that moment. Why?
Because it’s my clearest and earliest memory of displaying everything I believe about being a sports fan. If my full body, heart, mind and soul aren’t committed to a game, then there is no point in watching. Why bother to root for a team if you’re not going to pour everything you have into it?
This story actually makes me smile because, in hindsight, this early heartbreak was perfect preparation for becoming a Philadelphia sports fan.