Thursday, April 10, 2014

God Blessed Texas (and NCAA Basketball)

A few months ago, my mom posed a question to me and Brent, my sister and her husband: “Would you all be interested in going to the NCAA Championship games in Dallas next spring?”  Three of us immediately said YES, with no hesitation. 

I raised an eyebrow and started to protest, but as soon as I saw the look on Brent’s face, I knew it was over.  We were going to the 2014 Final Four, even though there wouldn’t be the slightest hope of Wake Forest being there.  Despite the fact that my mom works for the athletic director at Wake Forest (who was chairperson of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, hence the connection), Brent is a closet Duke fan.  Actually, he’s a loud and proud Duke fan, but I’m always trying to stuff his enthusiasm in the closet (without much success).

The rest of my family had that same enthusiasm for going to the Final Four, no matter what teams were going to be there, and pretty soon, even I caught the excitement.  I’d never been to Texas and I DO love college basketball (I can fill out a bracket with the best of them).  What did I have to lose?

Even though Brent’s beloved Blue Devils somehow lost out in the first round, NO team from North Carolina made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1979 (before I was born!), and the ACC was COMPLETELY absent from the Final Four festivities, it was still by far the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever attended.  AT&T Stadium (a.k.a. Dallas Cowboys Stadium) was packed out, setting an attendance record for both games, topping out at nearly 80,000 people per night.  Brent, Brendan, and my dad even spotted a few famous people; by famous, I mean, athletes that I’ve never heard of BUT there were some other well-known sightings on the big screen.  

Perhaps the most exciting part was getting TO the event.  We were lucky enough to be included on a charter bus shuttle from the hotel to the stadium, complete with police escort!  Having motorcycle police officers clear the highway for our arrival definitely made for a memorable life moment. 

Thanks to the opporutnity to purchase tickets from my mom’s boss’ allotment, we also had awesome seats.  And we decided that it wasn’t SO bad having no one to cheer for, because there wasn’t any need to get nervous about the outcome.  We cheered when we felt like it, sat when we felt like it, and mostly watched other fans who were totally freaking out the way we would’ve been had an ACC school made it. 

In addition to the games, we visited a fan event called Bracket Town on Sunday, complete with an afternoon performance with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.  I was excited to spot Judy from the CMT show Making the Team and Brent was glad to see the cheerleaders, for the obvious reasons PLUS the fact that he’s ALSO a closet Dallas Cowboys fan (Brendan’s the only one trying to keep that closet door closed). 

The trip wasn’t all fun and games.  On Saturday, we visited The Sixth Floor Museum, which is located on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository from where it is believed that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shot that killed President Kennedy.  We were all really impressed by the museum and we learned a lot.

As a teacher tip, a few years ago, I started a new tradition in gift shops when we travel.  I try to find a book that suits the reading level of my students for my classroom library.  When I return, I either read it out loud or tell the students about it and encourage them to read it.  This was my classroom find for this trip:


On Sunday night, we planned to celebrate Donnay’s birthday since we’d be flying home on the actual  day.  We picked a restaurant on Open Table (I highly recommend this website and/or app when you’re out of town).   We ended up about a ten-minute drive away from downtown, and we all enjoyed the modern décor, quiet atmosphere, friendly waitstaff and delicious food at DISH.

We had some free time on Monday when my parents went to visit Southfork Ranch, where they filmed the TV show Dallas.   I said I just wanted to do something that made me feel like I had been to Texas, not just any big city, so Donnay and I picked out Fort Worth Stockyards, about half an hour away… think Old Salem, but for cowboys. 


Mom and Dad reportedly had a great time too…

Rounding out the weekend was the awesome hotel we stayed in, Omni Dallas.  It had a view of Reunion Park, which hosted concerts all weekend that we could hear in our rooms (such as Jason Aldean, Fun, and Bruce Springsteen) as well as fireworks on Sunday night (which were pretty cool from my parents’ 21st floor room).  To top it off, there was a TV IN the bathroom mirror.  The only disappointment for me was that there was no CMT…even though we were in Texas?!?

The hotel also had a restaurant with one of the best breakfast buffets we'd ever had, complete with Texas-shaped waffles and a waiter who found me a Mountain Dew in the bar AND brought me an extra plus a to-go cup.  He must be an addict too.  :)

Overall, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat given the opportunity.  Hopefully, with Wake Forest there next time…go Deacs!


  1. Hopefully you'll visit us in San Antonio on your future visit to Texas!