It always ends in a loss. Humans all die. Websites die too. Unless something unusual happens in the next nine minutes of basketball time, Dayton will lose to Florida, all remaining squads will come from power conferences, and The Mid-Majority of Kyle Whelliston will close Monday evening after ten years and a final epilogue, the obituary. [Later edit: The usual occurred. Dayton lost to somebody of no importance. And why did the Dayton coach have to do his interview in front of a picture of a federal prison uniform?]
I hadn’t thought much about the Mid-Majority over the past couple years, because I don’t follow college basketball anymore. Before I quit bigtime college sports due to the shame, I read the site often. Now, I know the NCAA is a corrupt organization that exploits young men, like just this month’s 2:15 AM redeye to El Paso after a defeat and the athletic director’s $18,447.94 bonus for an individual wrestling title, $18,447.94 more than the actual winner.
I could argue more, but it does no good to go negative tonight. Unlike a funeral, our thanks might be read by the giver. My legal name appeared once on the website, in a mid-majority list of donors, although I contributed twice. The second donation, with listed thanks, occurred in 2011. I heard the second half of Butler’s loss to – who was it, [looking up] Connecticut – on the radio, driving on a stormy night from Atlanta to Dahlonega. I had called my dad at halftime, to check in while leaving the airport, when Butler held the lead. I got to hear the melancholy of miss after miss alongside lightning strikes.
On the note I sent with the donation, I said something about not being eight pixels away. Eight pixels was the distance Gordon Heyward’s hand needed to move to make the basket and beat Duke. I was there, just like Kyle. Right afterwards I wrote about rare, special hope in
Thank you, Butler. I recall reading Kyle’s problems with a saturated cellphone connection. Up in the cheap seats, I had good cellphone coverage and managed to post a photo to Facebook.
The week before, Kyle had offered a special collectible to raise money, the FYNNAL FOR BALLZ. I happened to be reading at the right time, sent in the form, and bought one of seven. I never spoke about it, because I didn’t know what to say. Butler versus Duke was my last Division 1 basketball game. My life moved on. I kept the Bally stuffed basketball and the mint from the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Airport. Tonight I brought them out. I even learned how to make a tweet to someone else.
“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things.”
Why the thanks? Why the LotR quote? Why the money? It was the story. In his first post, Kyle wrote “Enjoy the atmosphere, learn the chants, eat a nacho plate. If you’d like, write to me all about your experience afterwards. Trust me, it’ll be fun.” (I’d add links but they’ll fail on Monday night, so why bother?) I remember his stories. Over the past two days, I reread some tales. Many were exciting and fun, but that’s not why the Mid-Majority got my money. For seven seasons, the site was the story of Kyle, his life, and his trials. He had a great adventure, but lots of bad things happened. Kyle slept in cars, lost a lot of hearing, watched his hero die from afar, divorced his wife. Things hurt. A lot. From the prologue to season 6:
“I was damaged, hurt and breaking down, but I wasn’t afraid. All I knew was that wherever I ended up, it had to be better than where I was. Maybe there would be a cure for pain there. My body and heart wouldn’t hurt anymore, and I wouldn’t have to deal with sudden, unexplained and temporary debilitation.”
He came back to the Mid-Majority because he loved college basketball most. “The Mid-Majority is a love story, about basketball.” The site carried him when little else did. Through seasons 6 and 7, things got brighter. Kyle gained hope. All of us, each of us. His efforts meant the NCAA gave him a press credential, and now other online sites. By the end of Season 7, he didn’t need basketball so much, with new love and a new place. He moved on. At the end of Season 9, Kyle wanted to abandon the loss for the love, the love of basketball he re-discovered in Bucharest. “My life is better now. I’m not sick anymore. I have an awesome creative job where I make digital stuff, I get to travel a lot, and I live in America’s greatest city.” Good for him.
Kyle came back this week for the end. CBS and the NCAA even let Kyle and Bally on TV, on the right.
Tonight, I cried over some of what Kyle wrote, the tougher parts of the tale. Then again, I’ve got almost no sadness filter right now; I might find tears over a sitcom death. What I will take away is nothing about basketball. It’s part of a story of love.
“Love for self can be difficult and frustrating; each of us is trapped in a machine that keeps breaking down, one that is guaranteed to stop working altogether someday. Love for another requires transcending selfish desire.”
And we keep going to find that love. Thank you, Kyle, for the story.
“We choose to do, because we choose to love.”