One Friendly Moment: Lusk shines again

Two-time champ makes it three in fourth Friendship Game appearance

One Friendly Moment: Lusk shines again

The power duo is back.

Oh, how that sweet, sweet #CMApride was on display Monday night. In a largely forgetable Friendship Game, Chris Lusk (North Carolina, CMA) 🏆🏅🏆🏆 once again came out on top for his third Best Friendship, defeating Brian Henry (Gonzaga, Big Eight), 71-65.

Despite early controversy about his potential involvement with a foreign power and lots of shade thrown his way from his former conference, the semi-pro keyboardist for Hush Hush, Commotion (official musical partner of Friendship Madness) took home top honors in his fourth title-game appearance in five years. He now holds a staggering 3-1 record in the championship, losing only to last year’s Best Friend, Katie Rutledge 🏆🏅.

Chris certainly earned the win this year, despite living almost 700 miles away from FMAA Headquarters in Oklahoma City. He flew all the way back to Oklahoma to take part in the stirring wedding of FMAA staples Jake Lovett 🏅 (CMA) and Annelise Russell (Daily).

Fun was had by all, including the first time since Orlando all four CMA members had been together.

Look at how cute they all are.

Another trip a few months later helped me maintain my sanity on the rooftop as Chris drank beers and wowed everyone with tales of grandeur and delightful Chicago.

Then, in what can only be described as a Christmas Miracle, the band played a special OKC show that onlookers called “incredible,” “life-changing” and “who are these guys again?”

Best. Christmas. Ever.

You’re all going to have to wait until next year to try again to beat the most successful Friend in Friendship Madness history. Hats off to the three-time champ, and may his reign be as epic as he is.

Social Media MVP

This year’s race ended just about as soon as it began, even though the other contenders made valiant pushes at the end to knock off the favorite. However, Austin Dean 🏅 (Arizona, Big Eight) prevailed because of a fantastic song and stuff like this:

And this:

After all four previous MVP winners were from the CMA, the Big Eight has captured the last two. So congrats to the guy who flew all the way from Seattle just to make me drink for basically 36 hours straight.

Notable performances

Aside from the hardware winners, this year’s tournament also had several fantastic performances from some pretty special friends. Though only one person can be Best Friend and only one MVP is given out, this tournament would not be what it is without every one of you who make it special every single year. I am very lucky to have such wonderful folks walking with me through life.

Greg Horton (Oregon, OKC) has been a phenomenal roommate, partner in crime and teacher of both philosophy and wine. I’m fairly confident my dog might love him more than me because of all Greg does to take care of the ol’ Fozz, including walks when I wake up too late or have to work all day and a second helping of table scraps. His ascent to the Friendly Four was fitting for how influential he’s been in my life this year. Plus, I’m pretty sure he’s nailed it with every music, TV or movie recommendation he’s ever given.

As a mentor, relationship counsellor and surrogate father figure, Nick Schaefer (South Carolina, Pack-10) has all the answers. His leadership is steadfast, and his friendship is even stronger. But perhaps the best thing about the #YearoftheSchaef was his banter with Brian — constant, relentless, hilarious. His meteoric rise to the Friendly Four is likely a preview of more to come in the following years.

I told you never to count out Jessie Opoien 🏅 (Wisconsin, CMA), didn’t I? No one was more involved from the surly veterans of FMAA than she was. She took a lower-than-expected seeding and made the most of it, fueling a tweet-filled run to the Sweet 16 with quips and pics. Though I only saw her once this year (at the aforementioned Lovett-Russell wedding), I’m glad to know she’s still all in come tournament time.

Putting the “epic” back in the Epic Eight, Kasey Boes (Florida, OKC) and the other members of The Crew have played a key role in the last year. Shenanigans were abundant in friendships that started with lewd talk in a bar, graduated to adult-ish outings around brunch tables and shined as a lone-drunks afternoon in the new uppity part of town that might as well be South Edmond. Though I’m not still an active part of the group chat, I still cherish you all as much as when we woke up waaaay too early, hopped on bikes and overcaffeinated ’til we passed out.

Passing the torch

So it is with sadness I bring to an end the year of Best Friendship with Katie Rutledge 🏆🏅 (Villanova, Big Eight). The tournament can be a cruel mistress, but you upped the ante for all the Best Friends who follow. FMAA16 was everything we needed it to be, and it ended in the most appropriate way possible. Though you are no longer the reigning champ of Friendship Madness: once a best friend, always a best friend (unless your team was UConn, which seems to be friendship kryptonite). Never change, unless you are getting sassier, wackier or happier.

And with that, your One Friendly Moment. Until next year, you goofy SOBs. Love ya.