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The countdown begins with eight. Not ten. Eight. Because that is how many points Caitlin Clark needs to break the all-time scoring record in women’s college basketball, surpassing Kelsey Plum, who set the record with a whopping 3,527 points. I mean, I don’t think I’ve scored 3,527 points shooting in my driveway, let alone in games where an entire defensive scheme is drawn up to actively prevent me from doing so.

I’m one of the lucky ones, watching Clark live and in-person at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

I’m trying to be in the moment, but also realizing the runway is short. More than likely, Clark is gone after the NCAA Tournament wraps in April, and even if she returns to Iowa, we have at most one bonus year. Either way, it’s not enough. I wish I could bottle it up. Me and 15,036 other fans here, along with the millions watching on television.

I’m sitting with my wife and my three children. We have season tickets this year thanks to my wife, who has gone from being one of those people who is completely indifferent to sports outside of every two years during the Olympics, to being a diehard women’s college basketball fan. And I mean diehard. When I asked her if my good friend and his daughter—who has been besties with our daughter since they were babies!—could attend one of the games, she said sure, but they’d have to take my ticket and our 7-year-old’s ticket, because she wasn’t missing a game.

The day after an honest-to-god blizzard, with windchills hovering around NEGATIVE 30°F, my wife was adamant that we go to the game. That very night, I got our Toyota Sienna stuck in a two-foot snowdrift on the way home from the game, forcing us to sleep at a friend’s house because we couldn’t get back into our neighborhood. And—truth be told—it was worth it. The atmosphere on that subzero night in this arena was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

My daughter is a more recent hoops fan—joining the Caitlin Clark bandwagon like millions of kids and adults across the country—but she has also been playing basketball for a few years now. There’s something magical in watching your kids love the game and seeing them grow from “participating” to actually ballin’. Three years ago she could barely dribble the ball. Now she’s nailing threes on her middle school team and making left-handed layups over her dad in the driveway.

I’m trying to be in this moment not just because I’m watching the most exciting thing to happen to college basketball in decades, but also because of how this whole Iowa Basketball experience has changed my life. Like my everyday lived experience.

While others in my family are only recent converts, I have loved watching sports for decades. It was hard to explain to them why I cared so much, why my attention was so focused, why my mood was so attached to a middling team that I never played for. But Clark’s ascendency has, in my mind, ushered in an exciting new era of sports in my household.

Caitlin Clark is fulfilling her own dreams—becoming the leading all-time scorer in women’s college basketball—but she’s also fulfilling mine. Because of Clark, we are now a sports-loving family. I get to play hoops with my daughter in the driveway. I get to watch sports with my wife and kids. During this recent Super Bowl, my daughter laid on the couch for the entire game, despite not knowing the rules of football. Was part of that the presence of Taylor Swift and the fact that a certain C.C. also happens to love the Chiefs? Sure. But if she hadn’t gotten into watching basketball, she would never have tried to watch more than the halftime show of this byzantine game with a weird pointy ball.

The game tips off and Caitlin has an easy layup out of the gate. Six more to go.

What exactly makes Clark so special?

It’s hard to pin it down. She’s got the Curry Three (or the Ionescu Three, we may have to call it after their showdown this Saturday during the NBA All-Star Weekend), obvs. She’s got vision. A will to win. You know, all the things people would say about Serena Williams or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.

But it’s more than those generic sports hero things. To share clips of Clark making her signature step-back three with friends who have never seen her is to see someone look at the women’s game—this thing that so many folks have written off for far too long (myself very much included)—with a fresh set of eyes.

Clark is this exotic form of matter that is literally bending the fabric of the sports landscape around her.

She is the answer to all those dumb arguments in bars and on television about how this woman or that woman would stand up to some male counterpart. Not because she’s big and strong enough to take on LeBron James. But because she doesn’t need to take on LeBron, or any other fella on the men’s side of the college game, to show you that she is the thing you need to be watching, not them. She’s the one who will have you screaming ‘oh my god!’ more than any forgettable men’s college player of the year over the last couple of decades. Nothing against seven-foot-twelve Zach Edey of Purdue, but is anyone really losing their shit every time he puts his hand below his waist to dunk it?

And she just hit a three. We are literally only a couple minutes into this game and she only has three more points to go.

Can I be real for a minute?

That I’m even a sports fan is itself something of a miracle. I did not grow up in a household with football or basketball or baseball games playing the background. In fact, I cannot recall a single moment when my father or mother put on a sports game. Not a playoff game or a Masters round or a Super Bowl. The only allusion to sport in my childhood was my father’s claim to have lettered in tennis in high school. Which I took at face value until he deluded my faith by telling me he’d actually cut out a letter and glued it on to his junior varsity jacket as a gag.

When I arrived on campus as a freshman at the University of Maryland in 1997—an honest-to-god basketball school—I barely noticed the likes of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake. It wasn’t until my senior year, when that team made a deep run that brought them smack into a brick wall called Duke in the Final Four that I began to pay some attention. It was basically impossible not to. The whole campus—the entire metropolitan area—was alive with the energy of March Madness. By the time fall arrived the following year, I was ready to be a diehard fan too. To watch any and every game. To bring a small black-and-white portable television set on a road trip I couldn’t get out of while all of my friends snagged tickets to watch Maryland thump Duke at Cole Field House that winter—revenge for that Final Four game.

And sure, starting to watch sports because my college went to a Final Four was a real bandwagon move on my part.

Getting on the train the very season they won the national championship sounds opportunistic. But here’s the thing. I didn’t quit on them once they stopped winning championships, or even tournament games. I’ve been a diehard Maryland Men’s Basketball fan for 23 years now. I’ve lived with them through every up and down. I was there through all the Garrisons and the Gilchrists and the Vasquezs and the Stones and Trimbles and Stixs, all the way through to the better half of the Reese siblings today. Through that time, they’ve been better than mediocre, occasionally very good, but rarely in the hunt for a Final Four appearance, let alone an actual championship. If I’d been more enlightened, I would have followed the women’s basketball team during those same years, as they dominated under Brenda Frese, including winning a title in 2006. Alas, my enlightenment was still years, and a completely different power five conference, away.

This is all to say I completely understand where my wife and 12-year-old daughter are coming from.

I remember what it’s like to get caught up in all that winning. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know or love a sport before. Does a line of cocaine care that you never even smoked a cigarette before? A thrill is a thrill. And what a thrill she is.

Now, as I sit here watching the ease with which this team wins, do I worry about the droughts that may come, once Clark has hung up her shoes and gone on to the WNBA? Yes. No doubt Iowa will get lots of great recruits off Clark’s reputation, but speaking from experience, past performance of a team is not an indication of future performance, especially when it’s an entirely different team.

And more importantly—to understand the magnitude of what we’re seeing here— Caitlin Clark is a once in a generation, maybe once in a hundred years sort of phenomenon. Which isn’t to say there won’t be women who are as good or maybe even better—she’s inspiring many to try, after all—but as more and more young women unlock their logo-three potential, and find their Clark-vision, will anyone ever stand head and shoulders over the competition like this? It’s hard to imagine.

And yet, to every thing there is a season. I’m pretty sure Jesus said that. Or maybe it was Moses. Or The Mamas and the Papas. Whoever it was, it is absolutely true.

My daughter has already started to drop hints that she doesn’t see herself playing basketball much longer. She was already playing catch-up thanks to our culture’s obsession with getting kids into elite sports programs before they are potty trained, and now she’s watching the girls ahead of her get taller too. (It’s okay, though, she has found her newest passion: horses, who are apparently indifferent to her height.) She’ll stay a college basketball fan, like her parents, but she seems ready to retire her own sneakers alongside her icon.

I’m not sure how many years of season tickets we will have.

Will we be able to get ourselves up for most of the games if, a few years down the road, Iowa is 1-9 in the Big Ten and losing to the likes of Purdue and Northwestern? Will I be able to keep pulling for a school I only tolerate because we live here if it’s no longer the center of everything that is holy in college hoops? These are all big unknowns.

Which is why we are here. In the now. Because tomorrow is not promised. (That’s the Buddha, or maybe Gandhi, I think).

And because despite what Sheryl Swoopes recently said, Clark’s breaking of the all-time scoring record in women’s college basketball is a huge freakin’ deal. It’s like watching Simone Biles become the most decorated gymnast of all time. Or Kobe score 81. These are the sorts of things mortals shouldn’t be able to do. Over four years (not five, Sheryl) Caitlin has averaged 32 points on ten fewer shots (not forty shots, Sheryl) against some of the best women’s college basketball has to offer. And it isn’t like she’s doing this on some also-ran team. They have been one of the highest ranked teams the past couple of years, playing for the championship last year after slaying the Goliath of women’s basketball in South Carolina along the way.

She just hit a logo-adjacent three in complete stride. Only 2:15 has elapsed on the clock. She is so freaking unreal. That’s it. She has just broken the record. The most points scored in the history of women’s basketball. What a revelation.

So, yes, we are here. We are here because we love to be entertained. And because Caitlin Clark is the closest most of us will ever get to Russel Crowe in the colosseum.

And she just finished the first quarter with twenty three freakin’ points. What a night. What a time to be a women’s college hoops fan.

Jesse Stone

Jesse B. Stone loves science and writing. Apologies if you were looking for the "Jesse Stone" played by Tom Selleck in the CBS movies.

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