I saw that going differently, which is odd for me these days. I've pushed away these Wolverines, both on the court and on the field, for fear of being hurt. Call it the Richrod effect if you want, but I think it was starting before that. Maybe '06 when Bo died and we lost to OSU...or maybe '07, with the spectacular combination of App State and a fourth consecutive loss to OSU compounded by a 10-22 season in hoops. Whatever it was, I guess it really doesn't matter. In many ways and on many Saturdays, I've been the battered wife returning home. Fortunately there have been some bright sports when I got there:
Denard is one of them, the NCAA tournament run of Zack and Stu another. Brady Hoke's passion for the players makes me happy. Bacari Alexander's cringe-worthy pre-game antics are just stupid enough to make me (and the players) laugh at him and forget about how serious the task in front of us is. John Beilein is a man whose computer you'd have to clean a thousand viruses out of over Thanksgiving break, and whose daughter you would want to marry. And what Spike did tonight, the 9th leading scorer on the team, pouring in 17 before halftime...there is no better way to put a Beilein stamp on this championship game.
About that Championship Game? Seemed from the twitterverse that it played well on tv. I was in a mostly UL section that bitched about each and every foul, but it seemed to me that the refs were equal in their ineptness. Trading alley-oops near the end was classic. The Spike and Luke show was storybook. We just needed to hit a couple more free throws and make a couple more stops. It really was that close.
What's amazing about the Final Four is that it really is a destination (my Sparty friends will be happy to hear me admit that) as well as a tournament. It might be the only place where you can lose and feel good about it (after some grieving time, that is). This is especially the case when you are not bound by expectations. As the #1 seed, Louisville was the only team in the Final Four carrying that burden. We had already overachieved, Syracuse had already overachieved, Wichita State was just happy to be out of there trailer parks...it was on the Cardinals to win it all in Atlanta, and that's what they did.
With about two minutes left, the tournament Grim Reaper arrived. A man brushed up against me walking down the aisle, carrying with him a pile of newspapers...Louisville championship newspapers. It was a sobering moment as I had not yet given up the fight, assuming another Kansas miracle was on deck. I wondered where the pile of our championship newspapers was, and thought about how stupid that guy was going to feel as we sent it to overtime. I wondered what the catchy titles might have been on the articles in the Michigan version. And then it all just disappeared.
Time ran out in the 2013 National Championship, and on Trey Burke and his glorious time as a Wolverine. It's probably the last we'll see of Timmy too.
But this team is not done.
This program is not dead.
We will not be waiting another twenty years to get this feeling back.
I waited and watched as Louisville accepted their trophy and slowly cut the nets down. One of the backboards was lowered to allow Kevin Ware the opportunity to make the last few cuts on one of them. I welled up a bit during One Shining Moment, and then I walked out with my head held high. While nearly all of my Michigan-loss experiences have been riddled with blame and anger, this one was not. We played at the mountaintop tonight. We fought valiantly to get there. We fought hard when we got there. And we will fight again.
It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine.
...and now it's football season. See you in 144 days.