When I was a kid, one of the amusement parks (I don't remember if it was Playland in San Francisco, or the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz) had a ride called the Wild Mouse. Santa Cruz's boardwalk had, at the time, one of the great wooden roller coasters in the world. It is still there. I rode it again this last summer, and it is still a very fun and exciting ride.
But, the Wild Mouse was different. Instead of a forty seat 'train' of heavy cars all connected together like some rolling centipede, like the rollaer coaster, the Wild Mouse was basically a couple of seats in a little bucket on wheels. It was suspended about a hundred feet above the ocean cliffs. As soon as it began moving it was clear that its appearance of dilapidation, and potential catastrophic failure was no illusion. You could feel all of the loosened bolts that were supposed to hold it together, all of the gaps in the uneven sections of track, and the huge amount of slack between the wheels holding the car on the track brought about by the years of tremendous forces having taken their toll. Within the first fifty feet of the ride you were convinced that you had made a terrible mistake, and you were now in danger of losing your life. About that time, you realized that the track ahead was about to take a 90 degree turn, and your bucket was travelling way too fast. It slammed into the turn, the car tilting a good three or four inches off of the track, with enough force to practically throw you out of the car to your death on the surf-foamed rocks a hundred feet below. That kind of risk to life and limb continued, time after time, until the car thankfully came to a halt, back where it had begun. Shaken, happy to be alive, and in need of a change of underwear, you jumped out and made a mad dash for the end of the line to take your next ride on the Wild Mouse.
Some basketball teams are like the roller coaster. They take you way up, and then plummet into valleys making turns with great speed. They are fun and exciting. But there is always the comfort of knowing that everything is under control.
But, the Miners season has been like riding the Wild Mouse. With every game, our NCAA Tournament lives have been on the line. The games have taken us to the high of handing the Aggies their worst beatdown in their history at the Pan Am Center, to the depression of them coming to El Paso to beat the hell out of us. Back up we go to the big leads over ranked teams only to watch those games slip away. The Penders lead Houston team, and it is hard to say which is disliked more, Penders or his team, handed us our only loss in conference play, taking us to a real low point in the ride. An overtime game in Alabama took us right to the edge. We rode to the top with a win over Memphis, and rolled past UCF at breakneck speed. Over, and over, this team has scared the you know what out of us, made us think they might be coming apart to dash us on the rocks. But, somehow, someway, the team has always held together, leaving us breathless, and grinning from ear to ear. The final game of the year was a fitting end to the regular season ride. One last, great, thrill before the end.
It's time to run for the line again. The Wild Mouse leaves the platform again next Thursday at 8 pm MST, at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Make sure that you have your seat belt cinched down real tight. It's always one hell of a thrill ride.