#RoadToOmaha — Paying heed to the Phog

Pay Heed, All Who Enter; Beware of “The Phog” 

This maple met my feet. Holy cow.

This maple met my feet. Holy cow.

Everyone has a Bucket List. And for as big a sports fan as I am, there aren’t too many items involving sports to check off. But there are a few. And one has long been Allen Fieldhouse.

When Temple played Kansas last winter, I contemplated driving the 24 hours from Philadelphia just to see the legendary Phog. Sure, I grew up in the tradition of the Palestra, but Allen’s hallowed halls were something I just had to see.

All I had expected to do was visit the cathedral Dr. Naismith built — to honor the man who made the sport I love.

You know, my own little pilgrimage to the middle of a cornfield in Kansas.

Not quite like Field of Dreams, but close. Not quite like Josh Swade’s journey in the documentary There’s No Place Like Home, but close.

So I pulled off the highway and into the magical land of Lawrence. And I shook my head, standing in the rain, in front of the small gymnasium on Naismith Drive, paying my heed.

I was about to enter the Phog.

The Booth Hall of Athletics is home to more Kansas memorabilia than I could count — more history was in that room than most basketball fans see in a lifetime. I soaked it all up. Heck, I had budgeted more time than any other stop on the #RoadToOmaha for this place.

Just as I was leaving, I thought, I have to try. And so I tried the handle, opened the door, and the Naismith Court stood before me, just like that. I kept shaking my head. This isn’t real. I’m good, but not that good. This isn’t real.

And so I walked around, taking as many pictures as I could. I wanted to remember every chip of paint, every scratch on the bleacher, every shade of blue and red.

The feeling I had, stepping onto that maple, was near indescribable. I’d never been there, but it felt like home.

I know I’m a tad bit crazy. But that crazy was confirmed when I sent my mom a picture from the Phog and she promptly responded, “Where are you?” Sure, most people would wonder where I was or say that maple’s maple anywhere you play, but visiting Allen was special and something I won’t soon forget.

The #RoadToOmaha’s a pretty unforgettable journey, right?


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