Sweetest NCAA Memories #9: Where Heart Overcomes HeadPosted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009
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.
If You’re Reading This, You Can Relate (submitted by Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6)
I turn 33 years old in less than a month and if there one’s constant in my life, it’s been sports. And if there’s one event each year that I look forward to more than any other, it’s the PBA Tour Finals. Okay, that’s a lie. It’s really the NCAA Tournament. My fondest sports memories as a kid, as a high school student, as a college student and as an “adult” are of the Big Dance. I have no one to thank for getting me hooked on the tournament but my father.
A 1959 Villanova graduate, my dad has rooted for the “Big V” as long as I can remember. In 1985, it finally paid off. Rollie and the ‘Cats miracle run to the title was the hook, line and sinker for me when it came to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, my mom made me go to bed that Monday night and I didn’t know of the ‘Cats win until the next morning. I still, to this day, have newspaper clippings and such from that game. From that moment, I became a Villanova fan for life.
I can’t fill out a bracket without somehow convincing myself that Villanova can make the Final Four. Example, you ask?
1995. ‘Nova had one of their best regular seasons in a long, long time led by the one-sock-up-wonder, Kerry Kittles. The were finally back in the tournament for the first time in a few years and the ‘Cats are a 3-seed and get Old Dominion in the first round. I naturally pick Villanova in the Final Four. It’s my freshman year of college and I’m a videographer for the Ohio University women’s basketball team and we are flying to Seattle for the NCAA Tournament. While in the air, ‘Nova is playing ODU. I thought the flight attendant was going to throw me out of the plane. I had one of those old-school walkmans with an AM/FM radio. As we crossed over Minnesota and the great northwest of the United States, I kept tuning in broadcasts of the game. I would catch a few minutes here, a few minutes there. The flight attendant must have told me 15 times to turn off the walkman! I refused. I didn’t care that I was putting the flight in jeopardy. Villanova was playing and they were going to overtime with OD-Who? As you may have guessed (or remembered), the ‘Cats lost, all but ruining my trip to the Emerald City. Luckily I was not arrested upon exit from the plane.
That’s just one of many Villanova heartbreak stories I’ve had following the ‘Cats all these years. But if nothing else, it always gives my dad and I something we can talk, bond, argue, second-guess and complain about come March.
I remember on my 12th birthday, Villanova upset Rex Chapman and UK on their way to an Elite Eight loss to the great Stacey King/Mookie Blaylock-led Oklahoma Sooners.
After the ’95 disaster, I’m convinced they’ll bounce back in ’96 & 97 only to watch them get upset in the second round by Louisville and Cal (led by Tony Gonzalez)
Finally, after another lenghty lay-off from the Dance, ‘Nova gets back in with these youngsters (Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Mike Nardi and Curtis Sumpter, who tore his ACL and didn’t get to play) Once again, I think they’re Final Four bound (when will I learn?!?!) But this year they actually give me hope. A win over New Mexico. A win over Florida. For the first time since 1988, they’re back in the Sweet Sixteen! A showdown with Carolina in the Carrier Dome. Do I need to remind you all of the phantom walk on Allen Ray in the final seconds? (1:05 mark) Enough said. Another heartbreaking end to the season.
2006. This might finally be the year. A #1 seed. They get the play-in winner for crying out loud! Oops. Monmouth gave the ‘Cats a war and ‘Nova barely got out alive. Not one of their proudest moments. But they did regroup to make it to the Elite Eight thanks to a memorable comeback against Boston College in the Sweet Sixteen. The headline in the Philly Daily News read “Villa-Thrilla!” Will Sheridan’s goaltend bucket will live in Main Line infamy and it gave me a memorable 30th birthday. Unfortunately, what happened after that was something I wish I could forget. A poor-shooting night ended the ‘Cats run (and a pretty good Florida team. How did they finish?).
Then came last year’s improbable march to the round of 16 as a #12 seed. Just a great coaching job by Jay Wright and a gutty effort by guys like Scottie Reynolds. I never thought they had a chance against Kansas, but for once, just getting there was enough for me.
Don’t think I can say the same for this year. This team is capable of big things. And again, I will talk myself into putting Villanova in my Final Four. Only this time I hope I’m right. And this time I won’t have to go to bed early!