Monday there was a hole in my heart. Usually, for the past three-plus months, I would tread over to Worthen Arena on Monday's and Thursday's and hold weekly interviews with the basketball team.
Now the season has ended, and so have the interviews.
Ball State played its heart out last week, but finally one of the most successful seasons in school history closes at 23-12.
But those are just numbers. And, you know, this season was full of numbers from threes to rankings, from wins to losses and everything in between. If I were to try to wrap up a season in one column, it would be one long column and nearly impossible to write. So I won't.
We all know what happened with the team this year. From the first upset in Maui to the final loss of the season in South Carolina. Those who care already know.
So instead, I will discuss a little bit from behind the scenes - the interviewing - for one of my last editions of this column regarding Ball State basketball.
Throughout the season I have interviewed nearly every player on the team. Even if I am not directly quoting a player, I have had the conversations.
At the same time, I have talked to head coach Tim Buckley more during the basketball season than I have my own mother. Whether it's twice a week at media day or calling him on the phone at his office, Buckley and I have had quite the correspondence.
Now it's over, at least for now. There will be another season and there may even be reason to talk to him again this season, such as recruiting. For the most part, however, my weekly conversations with Buckley and this team are over.
And, for the record, I just want to say thanks.
I have lost track of the number of coaches and players from other schools and leagues with whom I have talked this year. Through it all - win's and losses - there is no other organization that handles the media with more respect and dignity than that of the Ball State basketball program.
If the Cardinals suffered a loss, Buckley would be shorter than normal with his answers, but he was never disrespectful. There were times when it was obvious he wanted to say something he shouldn't, and he wouldn't. He would remain respectful for the sake of his dignity, and that of his team and the university. Coming from someone who deals with athletes and coaches nearly every day, it was beyond appreciated.
Along with Buckley's respect came respect from his players.
If I were Petie Jackson, I would be so sick of answering my questions it wouldn't be funny. And maybe he is, but the fact is, he answered them.
Week after week Jackson, along with the other members of the team, would answer our questions. Even if they weren't the questions they wanted to hear, they would always listen and answer.
Too many times the relationship between the media, the players and coaches becomes too "textbook." The players sit up at the table, the reporter puts his recorder on the table and 15 minutes later the short-lived textbook conversation is done.
This past week I traveled with the team on their journey through the National Invitation Tournament. It was a fitting end to a long season.
Throughout the trip the team and coaches showed even more respect for me than they already had. I know this column isn't in line with my usual sarcastic outlook on life, and honestly, that's OK. Sometimes the best way to thank someone for their respect is to return it.
Write to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org