Several years ago country singer Travis Tritt recorded a song called ‘Where Corn Don’t Grow’, written by Mark Alan Springer. The song starts with a young man, talking to his farmer dad about wanting a different life, somewhere a long way from where he grew up. As most of of have discovered:
Hard times are real
There’s dusty fields no matter where you go
You may change your mind
‘Cause the weeds are high where corn don’t grow.
I’m a Texas Tech basketball fan. I started when I got to the school in 1975 and while I have not had season tickets every year, I have more years than I have not. Football season to me is what we have to suffer through to get to basketball season. I’ve seen some pretty good teams over the years.
In 1996, the last year of the old Southwest Conference, Red Raiders were 14-0 in conference. That year was also the last regular season played in the old Lubbock Coliseum, AKA the Bubble. I remember Tech player Jason Sasser dancing down the scorer’s table after the last game. And that was the year Darvin Ham broke a backboard in a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina.
We got a new Arena for the 1997 season. Voters just decided to implode the bubble soon. The very last game played there was a “throw-back” game this year. It was a good building.
And in 2001, Tech hired legendary coach Bob Knight. He’s known for his temper. He’s rude and crude. But also a genius when it comes to basketball coaching. I never lost a sense of pride when they said “Texas Tech Basketball Coach Bob Knight”. My season ticket is on a corner up behind/beside the bench and I could some hear some more fervent time outs and it was amazing. He coached some great guys and made a Sweet 16 appearance.
When Coach Knight retired, we had a few other coaches that did ok but nothing great. We did not always win but I don’t remember a losing season. My memory might be faulty.
In 2016 Tech hired Chris Beard. He is a graduate of the University of Texas, the only bad thing I can think of to say about him. He’s coached around everwhere and was a Bob Knight assistant coach, a job he credits greatly for helping him develop his coaching style. He’d accepted a head coaching job at UNLV when the Tech job came open. He loved Texas Tech, loved Lubbock. His daughters were here. He came home. That simple. And he promised us a top tier team and he’s delivered, big time.
In 2017 our senior loaded team went to the Elite 8, losing to eventual National Champions Villanova. It was great.
At the beginning of the 2018 season, things were projected to be grim. We’d graduated our seniors, lost one freshman to the NBA. We had 1 veteran senior(Norense Odiase), 2 seniors who’d transferred from other schools (Tariq Owens, Matt Mooney) and 2 sophomores starting (Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti). They were picked to finish 7th in the Big 12 which is even worse than it sounds because Big 12 only has 10 teams. Some national basketball heads did not even see them making the NCAA tournament. But guess what:
They won the first 10 games of the year
They lost to Duke by 11 in December in Madison Square Garden. The game was way closer than it sounds. Game fell apart during last couple of minutes but Tech was ahead for a little while. Big game, big arena, nothing to be ashamed of.
They were co-champs of the Big 12.
Ranked as high as #8 in polls.
They lost first round of Big 12 Tournament. Not a surprise. That tournament is in their heads. They never do well there.
And they earned a #3 seed in their bracket. And proceeded to beat people they weren’t supposed to. Northern Kentucky. Buffalo. Michigan, Gonzaga. And poof, they are in the Final Four, for the first time ever. And they have a big shot.
To quote Coach Beard, Texas Tech is going to the Final Four.
The Elite Eight game last night was amazing. The announcers were clearly pro-Gonzaga, the number one seed. They still could not believe Tech was there. How the heck did that even happen? And they kept waiting for Tech team to fall apart and they didn’t. They never, ever gave up. As a person who saw every game this season, I wasn’t surprised. Team plays for each other. They play for coach. They play for pride. They play because Coach told them “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
For the record, my bracket died a violent death earlier but I did have Tech winning the Final Four. And I’ll admit I picked with my heart, not my head.
I started with the song because if one of Coach’s favorites and it is an anthem for this team. Tech is not respected, on any level. Other schools think Tech is where anyone, especially athletes, come because no one else wants them. Lubbock is in the middle of nowhere. No mountains. 5 hours from a major city. Airport with virtually one airline. Not exactly true but close enough. Wind and/or dust practically every day. But it is a community full of the best people in the world. A place where In some ways we are exactly where the corn actually DOES grow. Not a fancy city but enough. A place where a whole lot of people come home to when they discovered the bright lights sometimes just block out the stars.