The madness of March has once again ceded itself to the serenity of spring. While multiple games on the hardwood were highly entertaining (insert major shout out to the Elite 8 here), there were (as always) greater lessons to be learned… both on and off the court.
Allow me to foreshadow today’s discussion with a reference to the 2018 tournament, repeating a few words written here a little more than one year ago…
“No [upset] 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, history was made; it was an iconic moment in sports.
Let that sink in for a mere moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, most likely not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, 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… 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… it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers…”
Through each round of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament — with game after game suggesting Virginia’s ouster could again come earlier than expected — commentators continued to reference Virginia’s “painful” loss a year ago.
When that pain was posed as a question to Tony Bennett, the articulate Cavaliers’ coach, Bennett corrected the question.
It wasn’t solely “painful.” It was a “painful gift.”
“I’m so thankful. I don’t deserve the credit. I don’t care about the critics. I don’t even pay attention to that. I really don’t.
I just know it was really hard to lose in the first round. It stung. It was, as I said, a ‘painful gift.’
It was so humbling. It drew me and drew our team closer in a way that we couldn’t have gone.
Again, the quote we use — and I guess I’m full of quotes — is from that ‘Ted Talk’ I showed them at the beginning of the year. And I said, the quote is this, ‘If you learn to use it right — the adversity — it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.’
And I didn’t know if that meant we’d get to a Final Four or do that. I just knew it would deepen us in ways on the court, off the court, in what we believe, and mark us for the right stuff. And that is what I think took place.”
Here in a game — a game played by those not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, young men — the rest of us witnessed a bigger lesson…
It’s not about winning and losing.
It’s about reacting to winning and losing in wise ways…
It’s about reacting to life in wise ways…
… learning to use adversity right.
Well done, Coach Bennett and your young, accomplished Cavaliers.
Thanks for teaching the rest of us so well.