It started at Late Night, the first practice of the year. Anxious students opened the doors fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. At the exhibition games, students started showing up for seats a couple days before tip-off. For the season opener, camping started a week before game day.
A six AM lottery determined the initial order of groups. A given group's place in line isn't determined entirely by luck, however. There is a great deal of skill and determination involved. Some groups don't have what it takes; others virtually never fail. I am the proud leader of Kirk Hinrich's Elf Children. This is our story.
Tuesday, November 19th
2:24 AM: My roommate asks me if I want to get up at 4 AM to watch the Leonid Meteor Shower. "NO! BASKETBALL!" I grumble somewhat coherently as I climb into my loft and begrudgingly set my alarm clock.
5:30 AM: The alarm goes off.
5:48 AM: I realize that I am still in bed. "@#*(!!!!" I scream as I jump out of bed, undoubtedly waking the unfortunate people who live above and below me. I grab my backpack and the nearest pair of jeans and start my power walk to Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
6:01 AM: I arrive at my destination. The day's camping has begun but, thankfully, they haven't taken morning roll call yet. Our place in line is secure. I put my head on my backpack. My consciousness ceases.
8:25 AM: Consciousness resumes temporarily as someone calls roll. It is vital for successful campers to develop a sixth sense of when roll is going to be called. Although the rules state that the roll-caller is required to check the bathrooms and make sure everyone is awake, one must remember that every other group is always gunning for you. This is especially true when your group number is in single digits.
10:15 AM: Consciousness resumes permanently. A bottle of water from the vending machines and stale granola bars from my backpack serve as an adequate breakfast. A good camper is always prepared.
10:54 AM: My replacement shows up. It's a relief to see that he is another wily veteran, so I can spare him the usual speech on the importance of his job. I depart for class with peace of mind.
12:30 PM: As I am eating lunch, the one o'clock freshman camper calls me. He has a question along the lines of "Uh, am I camping today?" The kid has so much potential. He just needs to get his head in the game. At least he called and averted disaster.
3:46 PM: Class ends and I head back down to the field house to find that everything went off without a hitch. I spend the next couple hours studying by the concession stand.
5:30 PM: The campers are booted outside. We are marched up the hill and given our number cards. By now, most of Kirk Hinrich's Elf Children (KHEC) have arrived.
5:50 PM: One of our esteemed veteran members spots ESPN's Jay Bilas walking into the fieldhouse. We call him over and shake his hand. We all agree that he's not as fun to talk to as Dick Vitale, whom we met last year.
6:00 PM: The doors open. KHEC scores big with third row seats behind the Kansas bench. There is much rejoicing.
8:51 PM: Hinrich hits a three. Bryant Nash follows with a monstrous dunk right in front of me. The run has begun and -- just like that -- the huge void left within me at the end of last season is filled.
Some people come to college and turn into alcoholics. Others turn into workaholics. Hello, my name is Bill and I am a Hawkaholic.
And I can't freakin' wait for Arizona.