In the front row of the BYU student ROC section at Saturday night’s big West Coast Conference men’s basketball showdown between the No. 23-ranked Cougars and No. 2-ranked Gonzaga stood Colton Potter, a sophomore BYU student from near South Bend, Indiana.
Even in the mob of Cougar students who flooded into the Marriott Center more than two hours before tipoff, Potter stood out to me since he was proudly sporting his No. 32 Jimmer Fredette jersey.
Pretty appropriate, right?
It’s been just over nine years since the BYU home crowd got to see the No. 9-ranked Cougars stun undefeated, No. 4-ranked San Diego State, 71-58, in Provo behind 43 points from Fredette.
Potter said he was in his early teens in those days but still remembers the excitement of seeing Fredette in action.
“I wasn’t really a BYU fan but I loved Jimmer and cheered for him a lot,” Potter said. “That was back before you could just watch any game you wanted. Being here tonight brings back the memory of that San Diego State game and the era of Jimmer-mania.”
I asked Potter what he had to do to get his prime position for the big game, since I knew a lot of Cougar students coveted that position.
“We started camping out Tuesday night but then they cleared the area for the BYU-Santa Clara game on Thursday,” Potter said. “It was re-opened at 11 p.m. and it was just a dead sprint to get to the front of the line. I beat this other guy by just a split second, so our tent was tent No. 1. By midnight or 12:30 a.m. there were 132 tents set up. Today before the game the line of students went from the Marriott Center clear back to the library. It was crazy but so much fun.”
Since we were talking before the game itself, the excitement and optimism from Potter and the students around him about the chances for the Cougars to take down the talented Bulldogs was off the charts.
But what if BYU didn’t end up getting the win? Would he feel his efforts were worth it?
“It might taint the memory a little bit but it will still have been worth it,” Potter said. “I would still camp out and do it all over again. I camped out last year for the Gonzaga game. These are great college memories.”
I like Potter’s perspective because I think it’s the right way to look at these types of experiences.
You absolutely have to take in the atmosphere, revel in each big moment, savor the energy and adrenaline that make these memories so unique.
I’ve been able to experience phenomenal atmospheres at the high school, college and professional levels.
Sometimes they have turned into all-time great victories. Sometimes they have resulted in heart-stopping, nail-biting finishes.
And sometimes they haven’t. Sometimes they have been anticlimactic blowouts.
That’s part of sports.
If you are passionate about your team, you have to accept that when it steps on the court or the field it might lose.
But it also might win.
Like Herb Brooks said in the movie “Miracle,” great moments come from great opportunity.
The only way to beat a top-ranked opponent -- like the BYU men’s basketball team did in Spokane in 2016 and 2016 or the Cougar football team did at Wisconsin in 2018 or Miami in 1991 -- is to play a top-ranked opponent.
And for those who experience those moments, they are absolutely unforgettable.
I hope everyone who had the privilege of joining Potter at the Marriott Center made the most of the opportunity and had experiences that they will treasure forever, regardless of what the scoreboard said.