As I contemplated what to write my column about this week, I came to a standstill. Should I write about the mess at Rutgers and the mind-boggling severance package head coach Mike Rice received? Eh, perhaps. What about the allegations regarding the 2010 Auburn national title championship team? No, allegations surrounding championship programs should be old news by now. While I could have torn Rutgers and Auburn a new one, I had the odd urge to be nostalgic and sentimental with my column for the mere reason to shy away from the norm.
I get the feeling viewers watch sports for the entertainment value. Some eat, breathe and sleep sports, which is completely fine. If you are for some reason concerned about your dedication to sports, please don’t be because you’re not in the minority by any means. However I want to challenge you to look at sports in a different way—a way of looking that goes beyond the box score.
Take Louisville, for example. I along with the rest of the country witnessed the gross, freak injury of Kevin Ware’s bone sticking out of his skin. While some may have gone a step further to feed their appetite of gruesome injuries and looked it up on Youtube, the reaction of Ware’s teammates drew my attention.
The Cardinals’ bench was shown flinching to the back of their seats at the site of the initial injury. Wayne Blackshear was on his knees in agony. Peyton Siva sat down with his hands over his face in despair. Chase Behanan and Russ Smith were close to tears—if they hadn’t shed them already. In a matter of seconds, Louisville went from getting back in transition off of a missed Duke three-point shot to utter turmoil and heartbreak. In a spine-chilling turn of events, the four Louisville players huddled together on the court rushed to the sideline where Ware was being carted off on a stretcher with a final camera shot of Rick Pitino wiping tears off his face. And the rest is history.
As you may already know, the Cardinals marched their way to victory against Duke in the Elite Eight, took down Wichita State in the national semifinals and went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 ranked offensive team Michigan en route to the program’s second national title. It wasn’t the final score that determined their championship run, but rather their togetherness as a team.
At the point when Ware suffered his injury, it was a sink-or-swim situation for Rick Pitino’s squad. They could have let the loss of Ware end their run just shy of a second-consecutive Final Four or they could use it as a motivation to win for their teammate—to rise to the occasion.”
Ironically enough, adidas introduced a new warmup shirt for adidas-sponsored schools to wear titled, “Rise Above The Occasion.” Once Ware was sidelined, Louisville went one step further and incorporated Ware’s number five into the shirts. The 13 young men who represented the University of Louisville took that saying across their warmups to new heights.
When it was all set and done, and the streamers fell from the rafters, Ware was seen cutting down a portion of the net at eye level for him, a remarkable and breathtaking feat. Finally, he was interviewed on the championship podium by CBS’s Jim Nantz and alluded to the notion that the team was like brothers—a family. They were a family indeed, whose championship run was defined by their unity and love for each other, rather than by a lone superstar or a slew of NBA-type talent.
As “One Shining Moment” played after the post-game interviews and analysis, I realized sports are so special because of stories like this one.
What was your reaction to Kevin Ware’s injury? Do you think Louisville won because they rallied around their fallen teammate? Let Rex know what you think by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org