Ever since the Final Four field settled down on Sunday, I've been reading everything I can about this last weekend. I know all the storylines--Why you should love or hate every team, who's hurt, who's favored, etc. etc. One of the things I keep coming back to though, is a lot of analysts and writers typing up all these articles about how this year's Final Four is such a disappointment. I disagree.
And no, it's not just because Michigan State is in it (though that of COURSE helps). And no, it's not because two of the teams I dislike most got knocked out and relieved me from watching a national championship game that I couldn't care less about because I want both teams to lose. It's because this tournament and these teams, to me, represent the true joy of sport.
They say that this year's teams don't have the "best" talent. There isn't an NBA draft choice among them. CBS and the NCAA will lose money because the casual fan has no interest in any combination of national championship match-ups they might see. And yes, all those things might be true. But as someone who loves March Madness, loves basketball and loves to believe in the impossible, this tournament almost can't get any better. Why?
Because this is what it's all about. As a child, you grow up in a world where we're told "anything is possible." We hear stories about David and Goalith, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella--the list goes on. The moral of those stories? If you're a good person, you work hard, you do the right things and believe in yourself, you can be successful, no matter how the odds are stacked against you. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth. Sports legend, especially the NCAA tournament, is filled with tales of realizing the impossible dream--Jimmy V and NC State, George Mason, '85 Villanova--you get the picture.
But over time, it seems those scenarios are dwindling. The Yankees paid millions of dollars to win the World Series, the Lakers still reign supreme, the UConn women's basketball team is steamrolling over everyone in their path--tales of the best of the best and their world domination are taking over our airwaves and jading our perspective. Sure, you CAN achieve the impossible....as long as you have the most money, best resources and top-notch talent.
(NOTE: I'm not trying to lessen the accomplishments of these dominating teams. I'm sure they all work extremely hard and sacrifice quite a bit in order to get to an elite level. I'm just saying that when you look at them from the outside, their dominance can be daunting.)
So pardon me for being refreshed by this "ragtag crew." Pardon me for the fact that I loved watching the so-called "more talented" teams get knocked out because someone else had the will, the heart, the toughness and most of all, the sheer AUDACITY to walk into an arena and think they could win. Pardon me for being inspired by players who reached deep inside themselves when it mattered most and made it happen in order to win. Pardon me for thinking that maybe this year was a wake-up call for all those teams who looked too far ahead because everyone else told them they should already be raising a banner.
I love this Final Four because it made me believe. It reminded us that having the most NBA draft picks or the tallest kid on the floor or the winningest history or the best mascot doesn't equate victory. It reminds us that what we were told and what we tell our children is really true--ANYTHING is possible. This Final Four represents everything about why we love sports--our joy, our pain, our hope.
Kansas or no Kansas, with John Wall or without, I will still be watching.
I hope you do too.