Over the last couple weeks we have implored you to make Xavier your favorite team, showed how this team's positives outweigh what we don't know, and heralded the Musketeers arrival on the national stage. While all of those were possibly things worth writing about, they all start with the basic assumption that you, like us, are a die-hard Xavier fan. While team allegiance is often something that you are born or grow into, there is still a seminal moment where it all becomes your personal belief. I'd love to hear all of yours; here's mine.
It was November 27th, 1996 and I was sick in the kind of way that can make a 14 year old kid think he's dying. I had been a Xavier fan my whole life, but I wasn't yet the kind of person that would decide to spend my free time writing about the team. Still, that night I knew that the Crosstown Shootout was on, all I could eat was grape popsicles, and I really needed my team to win to help me feel better.
This was season in which Xavier wouldn't lose until January, would score over 90 points nine times and go over 100 twice (why did we need 3OT to beat Akron?), and end the season ranked 13th in the nation. None of that was apparent on November 27th though. Sports Illustrated had proclaimed that the road to the national championship ran through UC and featured Danny Fortson on the cover. Xavier wasn't mentioned.
You all know what happened in that game. "Number one in the country, number two in their own city" entered the annals of the great sporting calls of all time after Lenny Brown eviscerated the Bearcats and then landed right in front of Bob Huggins. After the game Skip Prosser said of his game-winning call, "Get the ball to Lenny Brown and get the heck out of his way. If he misses it and we lose in overtime, I sleep like a baby tonight."
I didn't really know much of that that night, but that play became the one that pushed me past just being a fan and into being the kind of fan most of us here are now. Joel and I became Gary Lumpkin and Lenny Brown in a thousand snow soaked basketball games in the driveway, we gamed the system at Papa John's Pizza by placing second order's as James Posey, and we created countless NBA Live teams full of Xavier players. Since then I've seen Xavier make the Elite Eight twice, make the countless Sweet Sixteens, and become a national powerhouse that a few people can actually correctly pronounce now. That play, with Lenny Brown leaning in the lane and my family celebrating in our living room, is the one that I always go back to.