So some here know that Corliss’s grandparents were my God parents. The Williamson’s are just like my own family…now to the good stuff.
So I get a phone call one day from Tyrone Williamson(my uncle) and he tells me that we are going to Kansas City to see Corliss play in the sweet 16. If anyone here knows any of Corliss’s Uncle’s then you know they don’t plan ahead for much. I got the call two days before the game with Memphis. The first thing I asked Tyrone was did he have tickets and where are we going to stay. He says don’t worry about the tickets and we will figure out where to stay when we get there…lol…That’s the Williamson way!
I get to Russellville and its Tyrone, his son, daughter, a family friend, his son’s friend, his daughter’s friend and myself. So that’s 7 people needing tickets to get into the sweet 16 not to mention a place to lay our heads. I told Tyrone there is no way we are going to find 7 tickets and we would be lucky to find a place to sleep. Next thing I know we are in his van headed to Kansas City.
I was told that I had to drive first. Our first stop for gas was in Harrison. I had never been there and never heard anything about Harrison. We stop at the gas station and Tyrone tells me I have to pump the gas and I have to go in and pay. I was like come on Unc I can’t do everything. He’s adamant that I do it all. When I’m walking back from paying I don’t see a soul in the van. I know nobody came inside so where in the world could everyone be. I open the door on the van and everyone is laying in the floor. I think they are trying to scare me so I’m just looking at them waiting. Our friend, June, says get your ass in the van and lets get out of here. I was the only white person on this trip so you can imagine what was going on. To this day we still laugh about that story.
We get to Kansas City and find the hotel the team is at. Let me tell you, I have been a Hog fan since birth. My Mom lives for the Razorbacks. She taught me how to scream at the tv watching football and basketball. My dad was a state trooper and he would take me on the field at War Memorial during Razorback games. My sister and cousins went to the UofA and became friends with Roland Sales and U.S. Reed. I was and still am just a Razorback nut. Driving up to that hotel and seeing thousands of Hog fans was crazy. You could feel the electricity in the air. I had been to almost every home game Corliss ever played in and many on the road but this was different. I didn’t get to go to any tournament games in 94 so I was on cloud 9.
We park the Griswald van and all of us head in to the hotel lobby. I can’t remember which hotel it was but I remember is was very nice and very big. We go walking in there 7 deep like we were meant to be there. No lie, the first person we see is Jerry Williamson, Corliss’s Dad. He looks at me and says "what the hell are ya’ll doing here nephew, I don’t have any tickets!? I said talk to Tyrone he said he’s got it handled. Betty, Corliss’s Mom, gives me a big hug and says “nephew I don’t think we can get you in the game”. Tyrone walks up and says what room is Corliss in. Tyrone and me head to Corliss’s room while the other part of our crew stays in the lobby.
I’m thinking I should make this story two parts…seems like this is a little long for one post.
We knock on the door and Scotty Thurman opens it and says “look at this fool!” He didn’t see my Uncle Tyrone at first so he thought I just popped up in Kansas City. Tyrone comes in behind me and the first thing Corliss says is “I don’t have any tickets Unc!” So that’s Corliss, his Dad and his Mom telling Tyrone there is no tickets. I’m pretty distraught but I kind of figured this was going to be the outcome. I told Tyrone lets go find a hotel and then find a cool place to watch the game the next day. Tyrone was not trying to hear any of that. We chit chat with Corliss and Scotty for a few and then we head back to the lobby.
Funny side note to the hotel room visit. I bugged Corliss for months for a pair of game shorts. As we were leaving the room he threw me a pair of shorts that they had been wearing that season. Boy let me tell you I thought he had just given me the world. I let a girl I was dating back then wear them one time and I never got them back. It hurts just typing that.
We get to the lobby and Jerry(Corliss’s Dad) tells me and me only to come with him. We go around the corner and meet a guy named Elbert Crawford(RIP). Elbert was courting Corliss at the time to be his agent. Elbert was a huge man with a towering presence. He looks at me and hands me 7 tickets. He says “listen hear Jeff!” Scared the poop out of me the way he said it. He says 6 tickets are together and one ticket is by itself. He says “Jeff you have to use the lone ticket” because it was one row behind the Hog bench and since I’m white nobody would think nothing of it. He didn’t want a family member sitting right there because of how it would look. Even though I was family I just looked a little different. At that very moment I’m almost positive I peed just a little in my pants.
Can you imagine the euphoria I was going through at the time? I was 28, broke, single and a Razorback basketball junkie. I was getting ready to watch my Hogs play Memphis the next day all the while sitting one row behind the bench. Come on and slap me because this has to be a dream.
Part II tomorrow…stay tuned