India ignited a travel fire in us. So, we decided to travel to Houston to see the NCAA Final Four Basketball games.
The conversation started like this…..
Me: Maybe we could take Bear to the Final Four games for his birthday. You know the games are on his actual birthday.
Hubby: Really? I (yes, “I”, not Bear) would love that! But do you really think the girls would enjoy it? Maybe I should just take Bear.
Me: Maybe I should just take Bear.
Hubby: We should all go.
Me: Look at how smart you are!
Yeah for us! And my older brother who we dragged along with.
We arrived in Houston to find this little Bball court ready for some action.
Happy to oblige, the kids took their Uncle on while hubby picked up the car. Bring it.
And what kind of car did we rent? Well, we were in Texas, my friend. So we honored that by getting a big honking gas guzzling Yukon. Yes, that was a silly question!
We headed out at the crack o dawn on Saturday morning, which got us to Houston around lunch time. Hunrgy? Well, when in Houston, you are supposed to eat BBQ.
We found this little nugget of a restaurant called Pappa’s. All the food was served cafeteria style. Now you’re talking down home cookin!
I had the lunch of champions.
Oh, yeah. They served pit bbq too. This is the pork.
Then on to the games at Reliant Stadium.
There were tons of activities around the perimeter of the stadium so we got there a little bit early
to get a fabulous parking spot to partake of the fun and spend way too much on t-shirts (which my rock star brother generously gifted everyone).
Bear got a long sleeved shirt so he did not put his on. And I, well being brilliant, I didn’t think I wanted a shirt. That is until I saw how cute Flower’s shirt was. Then I decided, “maybe I will get one.” Yeah. Me and my bright ideas.
I waited in line for about half an hour to find out that they only had smalls left. The sales lady was trying to be helpful and said, “don’t worry, honey, they stretch.” And, yes, I did tell her that wasn’t exactly a selling point. 😎
My hubby and my bro apparently have similar tastes. Which is lucky for me because it means they both have a high tolerance for a whole lot of me. But it also makes them dorks. Tweedlebro and Tweedlehubby….
But they did not have the most attention-grabbing outfits on. There were some doosies! I didn’t take any pictures making fun of people because I am not a big fan of the “People of Walmart” pictures. (I am a huge fan of Walmart and probably harbor an inner fear that it might one day be me. Yikes.) But these two made me smile.
As we walked toward the stadium, we saw tons of people working. I couldn’t help but feel bad for them that they might not ever get inside to see the games. But this guy was not to be swayed by that – he was listening in.
Of course, the real excitement did not begin until we got inside with 78,000 of our closest friends. This was the view from our seats. Yep, good job hubby!
I walked down closer to the court to get some pictures and I got to meet Lee Todd, Jr., the President of the University of Kentucky.
What’s that, you say? How did I know who is was? Well, the entire student section stood up and applauded for him and serenaded him when he walked in and stood right beside me. Thinking that probably wasn’t for me, I said, “Well, you must be someone special.”
The lady walking with him (who turned out to be his assistant) said, “Oh he is. He’s the President of UK.” And then tons of people came over to get a picture with him. I told him it was a real treat to be standing there to see the students response to him and that it made me want my kids to consider Kentucky as a school. Really, it was quite something! I got to meet his daughter too. She was delightful.
Then, I remembered I was there to see basketball and not to make new friends. So I took a few pictures of Butler and VCU warming up.
And then my dear friend called me and told me that she had seen Jim Larranaga (George Mason’s coach) on a pregame show. She wanted a picture. And I was on it!
I asked the security guard (the one who incidentally told me that there was no way he could let me take my son on the court to get a birthday picture) if he had seen the coach. He had not. He was proving to do his job very well and, all the while, not being helpful to me at all.
Then he started telling people to clear the path. My camera perked up. Something exciting was about to happen. No kidding.
Former President George Bush, Sr., and his bride Barbara Bush rode in on a golf cart. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. And. My. Camera.
I blew him a big kiss and told him it was amazing to be right there. No matter what your politics, it is an absolute honor to be so close to a former President of the United States. He feigned blushing at my kiss, held his hands to his heart, and smiled. What a gentleman!
Then I nearly got knocked over when this woman from Kentucky came bounding down the stairs. Apparently, her brother used to be some state something or other and used to work for Mr. Bush. She actually asked the Secret Service agent if she could say hello. He said no. (Shocking.) Then I whispered, “Well now, I voted for him and I have seen him on tv, can I say hello?” He smiled and said no ma’am.
It was then I realized I might not ever make it on to the actual court. Hmpf.
I went back to my seat. And the games began with the most beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with soldiers holding a ginormous flag. Yolanda Adams sang the national anthem and boy does she have a voice! It was fabulouso!
And then my hubby spotted Jim Larranaga. He was sitting about 15 rows in front of us. Seriously. How lucky is that? So I went down and introduced myself as a Mason grad and babbled away about being so happy he stayed at Mason after taking the team all the way to the Final Four a few years ago and how lucky Mason was to have him for a coach. He was so kind and generous with his time. I told him I was sorry to bother him – I knew he was here to watch the game – it was just such an honor. And he said, “Don’t apologize. It’s nice to meet you too.” Honestly. So charming.
We took a picture.
Then later in the game, I was walking back up the steps from taking more pictures. And Mr. Larranaga was talking to some more fans. And he points to me and says, “she’s a Mason grad.” Wow.
Then I motioned for my brother to come down and meet him. Hubby was embarrassed, but my brother has more years in of putting up with me and just plays along. 😎
Angel came down the stairs with my brother and the Coach was so delightful with her. He introduced himself as the George Mason coach and bent down and shook her hand. I said, “oh she knows exactly who you are! She was at the GMU v. JMU game.” He asked her if she liked the band. I love this man!
Anywho, I finally thanked him for his graciousness and promised to leave him alone. 😎 The only thing I wish I had told him was that in my pool, Mason would have been in the Final Four. No, that didn’t work out so well. But I am a big, big, big Mason fan and you have to keep the faith!
You probably know how the Butler v. VCU game ended. But just in case…
Next up was UConn and Kentucky. We were sitting in the Kentucky section which could have been problematic because I have UConn winning it all. But the fans were nice and forgave me my transgression.
I had to go back down toward the court one more time to get some more warm-up pictures.
The night was just an amazing night but it was high energy. Angel got a little tired and managed to squeeze in a little catnap.
She slept until one of the Kentucky players made a fabulous 3 point shot and the crowd went nuts. If I had been filming her, we would have totally won America’s Funniest Videos.
You probably also know that the game was a nail-biter. UConn won. Unfortunately 78,000 of us were planning on leaving the stadium at the exact same time, so I did not get a picture of that scoreboard.