RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory, something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today. Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month. We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
My Stepdad, A Sports Bar, and Bryce Drew (submitted by Dave Zeitlin)
Long before Bryce Drew made one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, I sat in a fourth-grade class waiting impatiently for my stepfather to pick me up early from school. At the time, I did not know that something strange and wonderful was about to begin, a tradition, I must admit now to all my teachers from fourth grade through high school, that was fueled by a lie: No, I wasn’t really sick the same Thursday and Friday in March every year. The truth is, I ditched school every year so I could watch the first-round games of the NCAA tournament at a sports bar with my stepdad. Phew, I feel better now. And now that this public admission is out of the way, I must say that I learned lessons at the sports bar that I never could have learned in school – like how to watch four games at once without missing a basket (hard); how to order food while keeping an eye on the TV (not as hard); and who to root for you when you had no real rooting interest (the dark jerseys, of course).
It was also there where I learned about Bryce Drew.
For those who don’t know about Bryce Drew’s game-winning shot – well, you guys are just bad people. Seriously, the play doesn’t need a description because anyone who is a college basketball fan has seen it over and over again. But amazingly, it never gets old. Watch the YouTube clip of the wild finish of the 1998 first-round game between Valparaiso and Mississippi (below), and then check out the longer version, and then watch both clips one more time.
Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69. Chills.
Sure, there are buzzer-beaters every year. And 13 seeds often find a way to sneak into the second round or the Sweet 16. But for me, Drew’s shot is in a class by itself for two reasons: For starters, what few people remember is that Drew missed an open 3-pointer seconds earlier and Valpo only got the chance to pull off the win when Ole Miss star Ansu Sesay missed two free throws and the rebound was, fortuitously, tipped out-of-bounds and given to Valpo. Secondly, it wasn’t just the single shot that was amazing. It was the entire play – from the pump-fake on the inbounds pass by Jamie Sykes, to the leaping catch in traffic by Bill Jenkins, to the nifty touch pass to the streaking Drew, to The Shot, to the wild celebration on the floor, and then, finally, to an emotional hug between Drew and his head coach.
Only at that moment, it wasn’t his head coach that he was hugging. It was his father, Homer. And for me, that’s the coolest thing about the play – that it was designed for Bryce by his dad. Every time I think of the play, I always imagine the father and son having drawn it up years before while goofing around on an old, raggedy driveway hoop. Bryce’s older brother, Scott, the Baylor head coach who was then an assistant at Valpo, probably helped, too.
Lucky for me, on the day the Drew family booked their place in NCAA tournament lore, I was with a family member, too. Even better, I was with someone who understood that the first round of the NCAA tournament – also known as the greatest two days in sports – is far more important than a few hours in school. And if you don’t think that’s true, watch Bryce Drew’s shot one more time.