I love seeing my buddies Jacob and Jamar when I go to Manhattan. (For you non-purple people out there, that's Jacob Pullen and Jamar Samuels on the K-State men's basketball team.)
But for the past 6 1/2 years, going to Manhattan has been about more than going to a ballgame. Don't get me wrong: I love K-State ballgames. I've been going to them for most of my life.
As a college student, I camped out in front of Ahearn to get basketball tickets. I was in the football stands at every home game. And you must remember that was back in the 1970s when there wasn't much to cheer about on the football field.
But as much as I love K-State ballgames, there's been another attraction in Manhattan that's been even better: My kids.
Even if it was just for a quick meal before or after the game, I got a chance to talk to them without benefit of a telephone or a text message. It's been that way since August 2004, when we moved Jill into her first home-away-from home - a college dorm room - and started our journey toward an empty nest.
We moved her brother there two years later. K-State games have been a celebration of sorts for me - no matter what the scoreboard said at the end of the game.
So it was a different kind of trip when we traveled to Manhattan for ESPN's Big Monday edition this week when our K-State Wildcats took on the Baylor Bears.
For the past couple of years, basketball games have also meant watching Brent in action. While we had fun as spectators, we also enjoyed our role as proud parents, sneaking peeks at the sidelines and watching Brent work as a student intern with K-State Sports Information.
But, these days, he's a grad student at the University of South Carolina. And while Jill and Eric still get to some ballgames, they had to watch Monday's game on ESPN.
As we drove into Manhattan late Monday afternoon, the "nest" truly felt empty. Can you still wear your K-State parent sweatshirt when you no longer have a K-State student? (For the record, I don't have a sweatshirt like that - but Randy does.)
Did I miss seeing my kids? Yes ... always.
But it's just another transition in this journey we call life.
And the traditions still felt like family. We did the Wabash cannonball with our whole extended family ...
We cheered as Willie rounded the corner with the giant Powercat flag ...
And we celebrated our nation as a quartet from one of my college alma maters - the K-State Concert Choir - sang a stirring four-part rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.
We witnessed the shower of newsprint to begin yet another K-State game.
And we watched as the next generation of the Wildcat faithful cheered for the purple ...
just like our kids did so long ago.
And all those little K-State cheerleaders with purple pom poms and the little boys with their Wildcat claws, reminded us of the circle of life.
We may not be K-State parents any more. But we're still part of the family.