Joel Reichenberger: Celebration postponed

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— My first words in reaction to the best single piece news of my week were profane.

My alma mater, Kansas State, beat Kansas on Monday night in college basketball, and for me, there's little sweeter.

2014 Winter Olympics

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Slopeside at Sochi: Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today Sports Editor Joel Reichenberger is on the sidelines in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Find more columns, stories, blogs and photo galleries at SteamboatToday.com/sochi.

How much do I care about that game annually? Enough that I nearly blew a job interview (this job interview, as it were) once in order to attend.

I had a ticket to that game in 2008 before then-Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Brent Boyer offered to fly me to Colorado for a job interview. The game was late on a Monday night. The flight he selected was at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday.

I went, K-State won and even though I didn’t sleep at all that night and felt incoherent during my stop in Steamboat, I got the job.

Being in Russia presents its own difficulties. For instance, this year’s game was on ESPN at 7 p.m. Steamboat time, which made it 6 a.m. Sochi time.

Ugh. That seems tough, but not impossible, right? It’s a non-starter for a casual fan, but for those who care a little more intensely, 6 a.m. for a big basketball game can be done.

Add in the workload covering the Winter Olympics, however, and the metric changes.

We covered the men’s moguls competition that night, an especially brutal schedule for anyone with early plans the next day. The finals didn’t even begin until nearly 11:30 p.m.

Consider all the time getting out of the venue, the bus ride back to the mountain media center and the actual working, the processing of photos, take care of various odds and ends and writing a blog entry, and I didn’t lay down to go to sleep until after 4 a.m.

Waking for a 6 a.m. game may seem like a good idea sometimes, but 4 a.m. is not one of those times.

I convinced myself it wouldn’t matter.

The K-State men’s basketball program beats KU about as often as the Winter Olympics take place. K-State had a solid team a year ago, tying the Jayhawks as co-Big 12 conference champions. The Wildcats didn’t win any of its three games against KU, however.

When the two teams met for the first time this season, in January — KU one of the nation’s top teams this year and K-State theoretically in rebuilding mode — it was ugly. The Cats lost, 86-60.

A 26-point loss to the arch rival? Yeah, I don’t need to watch that on two hours of sleep.

So, I slept. Thanks to a light morning schedule, I even slept in. When I woke, the game wasn’t the first thing on my mind, but as soon as it popped in, Luke checked the score on his phone and delivered the news.

K-State won, in overtime, 85-82.

I cussed.

I made him swear he was telling the truth.

Then I cheered.

Covering the Olympics is all-consuming in a way my job rarely is, and for a duration it never is. Thanks in part to the time zones, in part to the distance and in large part to the focus on the task at hand, news from the United States trickles in slowly, if at all. It comes by email from friends and family, by my sporadic checking of Facebook and Twitter, or by conversations with other journalists.

I wish I could have watched that game. I did wear my purple around, at least. Hopefully when I’m back stateside in March, I’ll be able to track down a copy.

I’d have never thought it possible for me to be too focused elsewhere to take in a K-State basketball win against KU.

I also would have never thought it possible I’d get to cover the Winter Olympics.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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