My son’s (Middle Man’s) tears hit the downtown Indianapolis pavement as swarms of basketball fans buzzed by us in all directions. A piece of his action figure fell off and he wanted us to find it. We’d already walked several city blocks and were surrounded by thousands of people in Kentucky Blue and the Maize and Blue of Michigan. I’d been looking forward to this day for weeks, but like most outings with kids, things weren’t going the way I’d imagined.
A few weeks earlier, I received a phone call from Dove Men+Care. They told me all about their partnership with the NCAA tournament and how they also like working with dad bloggers around the nation. Since a portion of the tournament was in Indy, they offered my family tickets to one of the tourney games. I chose the Sunday game so it wouldn’t interfere with work or school schedules. I was very nervous when I saw the times of the Friday night games. The second game on Friday night STARTED at 10 pm, there would have been no chance of my kids making it to that game. Truthfully, there would have barely been a chance of me staying up that late. Luckily for us, when the Sunday game time was announced, tipoff was scheduled for just after 5pm. Perfect.
The 5pm start time gave us just enough time to sneak in a nap for our two-year-old, aka The Blonde Bomber. On days she doesn’t nap it is not a pretty sight. If things were going to go well, we NEEDED her to nap. Fortunately she slept. A lot. In fact, we had to wake her so we could head downtown for the big game. We quickly loaded up car. We told the kids to bring something they could play with in the car, at dinner and at the game. My seven-year-old (First Born) brought a Barbie doll, Middle Man brought his action figure (ironically it was Wolverine), and Blonde Bomber managed to make it out of the house with three dice, yes dice. Where does she get this stuff? I have no idea. I grabbed the tickets and my wife and I assembled a diaper bag, it was a diaper bag that only a third child deserved. When I say it was a diaper bag, that’s all it was, a diaper and Ziploc bag of wipes. We headed downtown to have an early dinner then planned to stuff our faces with snacks at the game.
We made it downtown an hour and a half before tip off. We immediately found parking, mainly since my wife convinced me to pay for parking as opposed to my usually routine of driving in circles for 20 minutes looking for an elusive street parking spot. Now downtown, it was time to find food. When we took to the streets (without a stroller) it reminded me a little bit of when the Super Bowl was in town. Crazy. Busy. Drunk sports fans, not particularly paying attention to the short people we were dragging thru the streets. This was also around the same time my son lost a piece of his action figure. Honestly, it was all very overwhelming. The first restaurant went into was telling its customers THAT HAD A RESERVATION, it would be forty-five minutes later than their scheduled reservation time. You could probably guess, they weren’t exactly taking walk-ins. I got on my phone and called every restaurant nearby. Nothing less than an hour wait, everywhere. It looked like if we wanted to eat, we were going to miss part of the game. I was on the verge of freaking out, when my wife saw a Japanese restaurant across the street and suggested we try see if they had a table. It was our last resort.
We opened the door to the Japanese restaurant leaving behind the crazy drunken college kids stumbling through the streets of downtown, to the absolute silence of this restaurant. It was like an oasis in the middle of a desert. It was completely bizarre. There were a few tables of people eating and a chef making sushi, but it was absolutely silent. My wife and I just kind of looked at each other in amazement. I told her it was like walking into a daycare at nap time. Within minutes we were seated, eating edamame, waiting for our sushi. During the wait, our kids were sword fighting, poking each other with their chop sticks, and rolling the dice they brought. I never would have guessed those were going to come in handy. So much for a quiet restaurant. I wouldn’t say the service was the best, but they really enjoyed making sure our kids’ Shirley Temple drinks were always topped off. Which may sound nice, but when your secretly trying to dehydrate your kids so they won’t have to use the bathroom at the game, it’s not that great. The restaurant food was decent. Honestly, we were grateful we found a place that had seats open and food to serve. After eating we headed to the stadium with just enough time to get to our seats before tipoff.
Our seats for the game were absolutely perfect. Our backs were to the wall of the suites, which meant we had no one directly behind us. We were on an aisle, so the kids had space to roam a bit. If given the opportunity, I would not have chosen any other seats in the place (except maybe suites where they had beer). Not only was Dove Men+Care nice enough to give us the tickets, they also gave me a gift card to spend at the concession stand, which was great considering the amount of food we bought at the game.
The game itself went a little something like this:
Tipoff- Concession stand trip #1. We decided to get the messiest most labor intense snack item for kids, peanuts. I spent much of first half shelling peanuts. The Blond Bomber was eating them faster than I could shell them. Even though I was doing the work, she had the nerve to get angry when I would eat one myself.
Start of second half- Concession stand trip #2. Jumbo soft pretzel w/cheese.
13:20 remaining in game- I was accidentally poked in the eye by my two-year-old’s salt covered index finger.
8:00 remaining- Concession stand trip #3. To my disbelief, we ordered a second jumbo soft pretzel with cheese.
6:00 remaining- Our seats and the ground underneath us looked like a landfill.
5:00 remaining- Fourth and final trip to concession stand. We bought a bag of Reece’s Pieces so big it would have made movie theater candy jealous.
2:00 minutes left in game- Middle Man punched the Blonde Bomber in the face over who could be the guard of the Reese’s Pieces.
1:56 remaining- Middle Man and Blonde Bomber were both crying hysterically. He was crying because we took away his candy, and she was understandably upset because of the punch to the face.
1:00 remaining. My wife took over full-time parenting duty. At this point, I was too wrapped up in the back and forth of the game to do any meaningful parenting.
:03 seconds left. Kentucky hit a three pointer and went up by three points.
As time ran out Michigan missed a shot that would have sent the game into overtime. I’m not sure how my family would have handled overtime, but I don’t think it would have gone well, at all. Hallelujah for the game ending in regulation time.
As soon as the buzzer went off, we headed for the exits. Most of the 35,000 fans that attended the game were UK fans and they stayed for trophy presentation so it wasn’t too bad getting out of there.
We made the long walk/carrying kids back to the car. We were exhausted. It was such a fun, memorable day my family and I will never forget. What a day. What an adventure!
Thanks to Dove Men+Care for making it all possible.