The HBO special that aired on Saturday evening about the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV found a special chord of emotion in my heart.
Growing up in Las Vegas from the 70's onward and having a wonderful father who introduced me to sports and college basketball made me a diehard Rebel fan.
My memories of the grand opening of the Thomas and Mack Arena with Danny Tarkanian, Freddie Banks and Armon Gilliam lighting up the scoreboard in "The Shark Tank" are still vivid in my mind.
As are the rolling out of the red carpet during player introductions and a dazzling display of fireworks and pyrotechnics INSIDE of the arena.
And never forgetting the ominous sound of the Jaws theme pulsating throughout the building and all 18,000+ fans opening and closing their arms in a gigantic great white shark CHOMP leading up to the tip-off.
I remember being hoarse from screaming before the game even started.
I can never forgot the eventual accumulation of the hard work and perseverance by Jerry Tarkanian and his fantastic coaching teams that took Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt and Moses Scurry to winning the most fulfilling accomplishment in college basketball—the National Title.
The city of Las Vegas erupted in a cataclysmic chorus from one end of the Strip to the other; people running down the street, yelling and screaming; cars honking and screeching with "National Champions, UNLV, Rebels" written in shoe polish across the windows.
Yes, there is the dark side to all this success, handed out by the massive amounts of suspensions and scrutinizing from the NCAA infractions committee that surrounded the Shark like pilot fish his entire tenure in Vegas.
Not saying everything Coach Tark did was all roses, but the segment also showed how UCLA was filled with its own bevy of indiscretions with "Papa Sam" Gilbert, who seemingly supplied players with any goods and services they needed as they drove in the most expensive cars.
Of course, the NCAA and John Wooden never saw any such things happening.
The overall most depressing time was the historic tragic loss to Duke the following season, after beating them by a record 30 points the previous year. Even Tark knew they were in trouble that day when he held an early morning-same day practice before the game and said, "we are gonna lose, they are not focused."
Of course, the bogus charge call near the end of the game against the team's leader and quarterback Greg Anthony was a HUGE momentum swing in the game and caused his dismissal from it by incurring his fifth foul.
Ultimately, I will always remember those days with extreme fondness and watery eyes, through the highs of the wins and the lows of the tournament losses.
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