I had my finger on the button to turn the television off last night. North Carolina was leading Duke by 10 with two minutes to play. It was over.
Something stopped me, though, as it always seems to do. That haunting fear that I might miss greatness crept in. And so I bargained with myself, a self-conflicted dance whose steps are practically muscle memory at this point.
Sacrifice sleep for sports. One, two, turn.
You see, I've been burned before. That Boise State win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Game Six of this year's World Series. The sheer stupidity of not sticking with these games until the end is, in retrospect, inexcusable.
Sure, there are reasons. Somewhere along the line, I grew up and had to awake at times that would cause a college student to have a full-fledged freakout. It sucks, but it's reality.
Common sense, too, makes a plea. When a game's all but wrapped up, it tells you it's fine to move on to the next thing.
But there's no room for common sense in these situations. One fact rules above all else. You can't be the person who misses the unbelievable moment. You just can't.
Highlights are there to fill in the gaps, of course. They are not an acceptable substitute for the real thing. They can't contextualize the emotion of the moment. They can't give you that feeling of nervous excitement that generates live.
Factoring all these things, as I and so many others always do, the remote was put down.
So, so happy with that decision this morning.
While the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina is as good as it gets, I don't particularly care which team wins. Sports' greatest attraction, to me, is that they're completely unpredictable. No two games follow the same script. And you know what? They will never, ever cease to provide great moments like we saw last night.
Sacrificing sleep for those final minutes doesn't always yield immediate rewards. Nine out of 10 times the game ends in routine fashion, bearing no stand-alone memories. But it's that one time that makes up for the others.
I do not regret a single moment I've spend pushing my bedtime back into the night and morning. There's been brutal mornings, bleary-eyed exasperation and downright awful dispositions because of it. All of these pale in comparison to missing out on the magic.
Sleep's for the dead. Sports are for the living.