Like many this weekend, I watched as dreams were dashed and brackets were bashed on the college hardwood. With improbable upsets and last-second shots moving from desire to reality, it was an exciting weekend for even the fair-weather fan.
None was as unlikely or historic as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s win over Virginia. Virginia was considered the strongest team in the tournament; UMBC was considered the weakest. With the upset being the first time a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, (if you were up late enough to watch it) history was made. It was an iconic moment in sports.
Let that sink in for a moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, amateur, young men.
So as the clock wound down and the upset evolved from the impossible to the unlikely to the seriously-are-you-kidding-me, jubilation was everywhere… Oh, how we love a good underdog!
The jubilation was everywhere! … yes … except in the hearts of the players and fans from the University of Virginia.
As fun as it was to watch the unprecedented glee from UMBC’s Retrievers — “Retriever Nation,” as is now being trademarked (even though a mere four days ago, said “nation” equated to a little more than five thousand fans), it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers.
The contrast was striking… untamed joy on one side… complete, unexpected shock on the other.
It made me ask, “How often am I aware of the other side?”
When the madness turns to sadness for a select group of people, do I:
… deny it?
… act like it’s no big deal?
… act as if only my perspective or emotion is important?
As the upsets continued — from my Ohio friends working through the unforeseen losses of both Xavier and the University of Cincinnati to Auburn, North Carolina, and Tennessee — I was struck by the postgame press conference of Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Bridges is considered one of college basketball’s best players and he just participated in the Spartan’s shocking defeat at the hands of Syracuse, a team which barely eked their way into this year’s bracket.
Said an obviously distraught Bridges, “I really just couldn’t believe that we had lost. I thought we had the best shot to win a national championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. It’s probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”
Note that: “the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”
Right — these are most likely, with all due respect, fairly immature 18-22 year old men — but it does not negate the fact that one person’s glee is still another person’s agony.
Does it matter?
Should the emotions of another affect me? Or affect how I respond?
While I pray for these young men — deeply desiring them to realize there is so much more of life to be lived and how God totally teaches each of us in the hard spots, so-to-speak, especially if we let him — I’m mindful that the elation of one should never blind us to the heartache of another…
… either on and off the college hardwood.