Monday, March 9, 2015


Look at the starters' cheering for the walk-on teammate. Yep. THAT is why I love this team. // Photo by Tab Brockman.

I didn’t expect to love this basketball team like I do.

Sure, I’m a Racers fan. We go to nearly every home game and some away games. My second-grade girl likes that her school colors are the same navy and gold that represent Murray State University. I think she’ll forever remember Donte Poole was #11. My kids learned how to spell R-A-C-E-R-S before a lot of other words. {And, really, my kids just make cute fans. See? Heres Ben. And Cate. And with Dunker.}

Yes, we’re just talking about sports here. But we like to go to the games together. Greg and I like to support our alma mater this way. I’ve learned a university has a different presence in a small town.

In 2011-12, my two favorite basketball teams had incredible seasons. I’ve been a University of Kentucky fan my whole life. I was born and raised to cheer for the Wildcats. But in 2011-12, I realized investing time to watching a small-town team is different than following a big-name team on TV. {Read more about that here and here and here.}

And, again this year, on the same day Kentucky finished the regular season 31-0, I was mourning the Racers first loss in 26 games. Yes, what Kentucky did was AH-MAZING. Yes, I’m cheering for the Wildcats to win the whole NCAA Tournament.

BUT I wanted my Racers to beat Belmont. I wanted my Racers to get the automatic bid to The Big Dance from our one-bid, mid-major conference. Only one time has the Ohio Valley Conference had two teams in the NCAA Tournament – and that year the conference commissioner was on the selection committee and moving on to the mightier Big Ten.

The Racers had 25 straight wins this season – the nation’s second-longest win streak behind perfect Kentucky – and an undefeated conference season. (It’s only the fifth time ever an OVC team has had a perfect conference regular season.) They were ranked #25 in the AP poll and #24 in the coaches’ poll the week before the OVC Tournament. Scouts come to watch Cam Payne, the sophomore star guard, more than once.

Of course, I’m still hoping “Murray State” shows up on CBS’ Selection Sunday bracket. I love the stories of sports – and this is a good story. There’s a #RacersDeserveABid social media campaign happening because people love this team. {Tweet that.}

We love Coach Prohm and how he leads this team. Yes, he teaches them basketball strategies, but he also teaches them about being men who lead their families and communities well. This is a team that prays together and the players talk about faith in their post-game interviews and on Twitter. {And speaking of Twitter, be sure to read Justin Seymour’s defense of why #RacersDeserveABid.} These guys smile when they play – even in close games. This is a team that cheers for each other in a way I’ve never witnessed.

We sit in the second row across the court from the Murray State bench at all the home games. And sometimes I watch the guys not playing more than the ones who are dribbling and shooting.

I remember when Payne was on the bench and someone else hit a big shot. He was the first one up on his feet cheering for his teammate. The walk-on player who doesn’t see any action until the Racers have a more-than-comfortable lead cheers when the scholarship players make shots and dunks and steals and defensive stands. And when that walk-on player hit a 3 earlier this season? The bench went nuts. {See the picture at the beginning of this post? Yeah, that moment epitomizes this team.}

So, yes, I think this team deserves a NCAA Tournament bid. Yes, I realize sometimes we don’t always get what we want out of life. Sometimes other people get lucky – you know, like banked in 3-pointers. Sometimes the story doesn’t go like we expect. But I do like stories where the good guys overcome adversity – which these guys did, if you remember that Thanksgiving tournament in Nashville – and end up winning.

Winning the game is awesome. But winning in life is even better. Let’s give these guys a chance to write more of this story.

But if Murray State doesn’t get invited to the big dance, the story isn’t over. I would take a home NIT game. We learned last year these “other” tournaments can be fun too.

And, hey, go Racers! We love you regardless of how this chapter ends.

Here are some other Racer-related stories this week I've loved. And they're written by actual sports writers ... 

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  1. I am a big sports fans (mostly college football) and love to hear stories like this. Each Saturday during football season I just sit watching ESPN Gameday to hear the human stories off the field. I'll be cheering for the RACERS !!!

  2. KristinHillTaylor3/10/2015 11:28 AM

    Yes, I love those stories too, Amy! After a big game (Super Bowl, World Series, NCAA Tournament ...) I like to watch the interviews with coaches and players. Thanks for stopping by!