Derrick Coleman's missed free throw opened the door for the Indiana Hoosiers, with plenty of time left to get up a final shot. The offense stalled, then flowed, with the ball finding the hands of Keith Smart. Smart took advantage, hitting a baseline runner with mere seconds remaining to put the Hooisers up 74-73. He sealed the victory by intercepting one last, desperate pass, giving the Hoosiers and head coach Bob Knight the national championship.
To this day, even without the aid of the clip, I have vivid memories of the 1987 title game between the Hoosiers and the Orange.
Clips and even full-length games are available for replay on YouTube. But – in the words of an old-timer – back in my day, we relied on the virtual world-changing technology of the VHS cassette. This was something I took advantage of for these national title games, thanks to my dad's love of recording said contests.
Starting in the 1980's and stretching into the early 90's, dad recorded the majority of the NCAA men's national championship games. I grew up watching Georgetown/Villanova, Georgetown/Houston, Kansas/Oklahoma, Michigan/Seton Hall, and the above-mentioned Syracuse/Indiana, plus others, on repeat. This is where I was taught how to do a shot chart, collect stats, and the meaning of an assist. No matter how many times I'd seen the games, for the longest time I'd still slide a piece of paper on a dark brown clipboard owned by my parents, draw a basketball court on it and fill out the games shot chart.
This time of year, as I grew accustomed to watching both the men's and women's tournaments, will always hold a special place in my heart. Heroes are born and no-names become the talk of the town, if only for one weekend or four weeks. Hearts are broken, as are wallets and bank accounts.
And in 2020, we'll be missing that, as March proceeds with empty basketball courts, the unique sound of sneakers squeaking gone silent across the nation. There will be a few weeks with the crack of the bat in baseball and we'll be missing out on the piped in sounds of birds at Augusta.
Sports, as it turns out, has a lot bigger of impact on lives than we could have ever imagined.
A shutdown like no other
Rarely has the world seen such a disruption in the modern-age like we're seeing now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have shut down and concerts, plays, and other social events have been canceled. Sports, from the pro leagues on down through high school have been either suspended or canceled through the spring.
The safety and the health of the community are rightfully a concern surrounding these events. An effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus is the reason behind this; a drastic measure to some and, to others, a measure that should have been implemented earlier. The abrupt shutdown has affected so many, monetarily and otherwise. Why should we care about sports?
Many of these athletes, notably at the college and high school levels, especially the seniors, did not get their final chance to play their last game or their last season. In college basketball, there is a team like Rutgers, whose program hadn't reached the NCAA tournament in 29 years and were poised to do so in 2020. Or Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, who will not get the chance to cap a stellar college career by attempting to win the title that had thus far eluded her.
Further down the ladder, it's the players on a high school team who won't get to play their last season. For most, their sports careers are now over without the last hurrah, where plenty of memories would have been made on and off the field.
Sports and athletics are a tiny blip on the radar in the grand scheme of life. For many, though, these events have always held a nice escape. It might have been by participating in or simply a spectator of, but sports are a lifeblood; a way to connect to the world, whether it be between family, friends, or a stranger on the internet.
And for me, sports, theater, or whatever the event might be, it's a memory that connects the past and my present. One that will have me celebrating what I safely can in regards to public events, and will eventually end with me popping a VHS tape into the VCR, once again looking for the one shining moment I know by heart, but is definitely already embedded for a lifetime.
photo credit: flickr.com