Before he was Sad Jayhawk, Matt Rissien was just another superfan: going to away games, wearing a costume, posing with luminaries like Erin Andrews and Scot Pollard. But, thanks to the vagaries of the universe and an alert cameraman, he's become more: a symbol of fallen hubris. A Crying Duke Kid or Weepy Tebow for a new generation.
"I guess karma does sometimes work out," said Rissien, minutes after he arrived in Lawrence from an all-night drive back from San Antonio in a family friend's rented van. He knows no one is going to pity him, as a senior who's already seen his team win it all in 2008. But there's an admirable passion in any visibly upset fan — the kind of person you're glad got the tickets instead of a corporate fellow who just doesn't care. Rissien reeled off the places he's seen Kansas play: Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska.
But, let's talk about the head. No one is talking about this today without the Jayhawk head.
"I was driving around late one night a year-and-a-half ago in Lawrence," he says. All good stories begin by driving around late at night in Lawrence. "By a field I saw something hanging on a tree and couldn't figure out what it was. It was the middle of nowhere, and when I got closer I realized it was that beak; so I took it, washed it and have been wearing it since."
For the record, he says he took it off for the 13-hour drive back to Kansas.
It got him profiled in the KU paper earlier this month, and a measure of internet fame, landing the cover splash for both Yahoo Sports and Rivals.com in the past year. But this newfound internet fame, fleeting though it may turn out to be, isn't what most would call welcome.
But still, Rissien says has "absolutely no regrets." Not even about being caught on camera in a vulnerable moment.
"It's not every day millions of people see you cry," he admits. "But I can take the criticism. I got to go to the Elite Eight, and some people will never have the chance to do that."