|For Memphis fans, title game OT loss to Kansas 'hurts too much'|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 07 April 2008 19:38|
At the brink of joy just moments before, they were crushed when their Tigers lost the NCAA championship to Kansas.
``I'm hurt. I just feel bad, you know,'' Bonner said, sitting up and wrapping his arms around his knees.
The Tigers, in the biggest game for the school in 35 years, lost 75-68 Monday night after the Jayhawks' Mario Chalmers hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Memphis fans had waited a long time for a shot at the championship, some since they were barely old enough to understand what basketball is.
``I've heard about it all my life,'' said Wolf Foote, 34, with the game under way and Memphis in good position to win it. ``Now this one is going to belong to us.''
Afterward, Foote sat with his head in his hands at the Young Street Deli, a tavern that caters to sports fans, unable or unwilling to talk about his feelings after the defeat.
Thousands of Tigers fans packed into bars and restaurants, gathered for private parties and crowded around TV sets all over town to watch the game.
A crowd estimated by organizers at 2,000 filled the university's old field house, where the Tigers played until 1964 before moving out for bigger, city-owned stadiums. Their home now is the FedEx Forum, a $250 million stadium beside the Beale Street entertainment district.
Three large-screen TVs were set up on the field house basketball court, which mostly is used for practice now, giving the fans at least a bit of the feel of being at a live game.
Filled with blaring music and screaming fans just moments before, the building fell suddenly quiet with the loss.
``I can't take it,'' said fan Adrian Vivar, 14. ``We've come so far, and to lose like this, it hurts too much.''
With the game in overtime, fans who had cheered in the stands moved onto the old gymnasium's floor, shouting encouragement to the Tigers, as if the players could hear them through the TVs.
``We lost the game ourselves. We stalled too much,'' said Donnie Hoffman, 82. ``I wanted to win so bad, I thought sure we would win.''
The Tigers were seeking their first NCAA title. They went to the NCAA championship game in 1973 but lost to UCLA 87-66. Memphis had one other Final Four appearance, losing to Villanova 52-45 in 1985.
At the Young Avenue Deli, several hundred fans stood through most of the game sending up an almost constant roar that at times bordered on deafening. But at the end, many sat quietly by themselves or with a few friends at tables awash in spilled drinks and covered with empty bottles.
``There's nothing to be ashamed of,'' fan Matt Mauck, 31, said as he leaned on a car parked at the curb by the front door. ``It was a great game.''
Bonner, looking up from the parking lot nearby, said he was still proud of the Tigers.
``This team has been insane for this city,'' he said. ``We united behind them, and it was beautiful.''