For Roberta and me, being spontaneous usually means deciding at the last minute to go grab wings and a couple of beers somewhere.
Last week, it meant driving to Washington, D.C. to watch our beloved Marquette Golden Warriors play in the NCAA tournament. We've been MU fans our entire adult lives and had never done anything like that.
It was about time.
We made the 7-hour drive from Charlotte and checked into our hotel, the Renaissance downtown. As a Marriott Platinum guest, I usually get upgraded to a better room if one is available. This time, we got upgraded into a suite on the 11th floor with a huge living room, a kitchenette, an incredible bathroom, two large flatscreen HDTVs, plush bathrobes and a veranda overlooking the city.
Pretty sweet, huh? This incredible room was a sign that it was going to be a very good night!
After a pregame nosh in the club-level lounge, we hiked to the Verizon Center. The following picture was taken about 20 minutes before Thursday's opening tip.
Miami was favored by 5, so I knew my lads would have to play superbly to win. And they delivered probably their best all-around game of the season. Marquette got up early and never let up. We led by 20-some points until Miami scored a few meaningless garbage-time hoops. Jamil Wilson, Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Trent Lockett, Junior Cadougan, coach Buzz Williams ... all of them were too much for Miami to handle.
WE ARE ... MARQUETTE!!
After the wonderful triumph, we stuck around to watch Syracuse destroy Indiana in the second game of the evening. This result meant that Marquette had gone farther in the tournament than the coach who had abandoned us, Tom Crean, as well as hated archrivals Notre Dame and Wisconsin, each of whom had suffered humiliating first-round losses. We also went deeper into the tournament than anyone else from the new Big East (which is breaking off from the football schools starting this summer).
Then it came time to buy tickets for Saturday's regional final. We hung out near the exit hoping to find an Indiana fan who wanted to unload his tickets. Unfortunately, about a dozen scalpers were out there looking for the same thing. They were pros and were very aggressive. We had just about given up hope of buying the tickets there when an Indiana fan who had bypassed the scalpers heard Roberta say: "Marquette fans looking for two tickets we can use, not resell!" The guy says, "Oh, I like Marquette. I have two." He let us have the upper-deck tickets for $60 apiece, 40 bucks below face value. A great capper for a perfect night!
We spent most of Friday with my nephew Russ and niece Fran in the suburbs, including a lovely walk through Alexandria. Here we are at the waterfront there.
The next afternoon, we headed back into Washington by subway, went to the Marquette pregame reception to act totally like goofy fans and then walked about 2 miles to the arena. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we ran into another Marquette couple along the way. They had made an even more last-minute decision than we had, taking the bus that morning from New York.
Then came the game. I won't go into that much here except to say that neither team could make a shot until Syracuse broke open a tight, low-scoring game midway through the second half. Blue started Marquette's scoring with a 3-pointer and Gardner ended the night with another trey. Between those two makes, MU missed 21 of 22 shots from behind the arc. My daughter Katie's high school team used to shoot better. But hey, these things happen. Syracuse totally deserved to win.
We left the arena and were in no mood to go to any of the surrounding bars, which were flooded with Syracuse fans. We had heard of a place frequented by the local Marquette alumni chapter and after almost getting lost, another Marquette couple on their way to the establishment guided us. We enjoyed drinks and a sandwich with our new best friends, Amy and Mitch, talking about our favorite moments from a season that was significantly better than I had expected it would be.
Marquette was picked to finish seventh in the preseason coach's poll. I thought we'd be fortunate to go 9-9 in the conference and sneak into the NCAAs. Instead, Buzz's Boyzz went 14-4 to grab a share of the league title. After a near-miraculous opening victory over vastly underrated Davidson and a great comeback win over Butler to make the Sweet 16, we took care of business against Miami. It was a great ride.
We drove home Sunday, unpacked our things and went to our dogsitter to pick up Simmie, who was thrilled to see her humans again. Then, after much carrying on, our exhausted girl did what she does best: curl up into a tight ball and chill!
So that was our fun, by-the-seat-of-our-pants weekend.
Was it worth it?
Well, we got to see an impressive victory that put Marquette in the Elite Eight for the first time in a decade, got to see Indiana lose, got to see several people we love, got to stay in an awesome hotel suite, got to visit a cool city, got to commune with fellow Marquetters and got to spend lots of quality time together.
Was it worth it? Damn right it was!