We On. We Off. At least We In It. Thanks, Michigan
Logic dictates that the weather doesn’t get warmer as the day ages, as the sun sets. Rather, it chills and gets it’s chilliest deep into the night when most of us are fast asleep. That was not the case in Indianapolis on Sunday night, probably some sort of perverse symbolism to describe the basketball game inside its grandest football stadium.
Inside, Kentucky was cutting down the nets. The alleged “everything that’s wrong in college basketball” had done it again. John Calipari, who can’t coach when they lose, but “man, do his kids play hard” when they win, was cutting his way into the Final Four like he does in a Dunkin Donuts line in Indianapolis, apparently.
And for Michigan, it was over yet again, a rude ending to a magical season that wasn’t supposed to be … then was supposed to be … and then ran out of rainbow.
The truth is, Michigan this year lost to themselves of last year in some sort of odd amalgam of destiny and timing. Last year, it was the Wolverines who limped into the NCAA tournament as a 4 seed with “all of that talent, but they just can’t seem to get it together.” This year, it was Kentucky.
They went to the NCAA title game and were a half away from winning rings, buoyed by a host of miracle shots, timely play from alleged role players (paging Marcus Lee), and what seemed like fate.
But of course, stuff like that doesn’t exist in sports, or so we think (know?).
The truth is, there wasn’t much shame in losing to that Kentucky squad … even as the pre-tween behind us was lobbing F-bombs with every non-UK call (to her parents’ delight). Even as Kentucky fan two seats down fought with Kentucky fan one row back, because apparently Kentucky fan two seats down has a superstition that the team won’t lose so long as he’s standing and the ball is in play.
I’m being serious.
But yet as it all ended, and the thunderous chant of “Big Blue Nation” (note, not “S-E-C”) rained down the rafters much to the chagrin of every Indiana fan not really happy to see that kind of Blue and White win in that stadium, as Kentucky fans actually patted us on the back and said things like “good game” and “you guys gave us all you had” (for the record, I gave nothing other than a good time), it was hard not to stand there and applaud this Michigan team.
Thank you, Jordan Morgan, for being the glue, turning back every individual who said that a 6’8″-ish 5 couldn’t get it done against the elite in college basketball. Thank you to the entire Michigan program … and if you’re mad about losing in the Elite 8, it shows how far this place has come.
Michigan was a program left for dead, the poster children of what the NCAA wishes all of its mostly incongruent with one another sanctions would become. Michigan was on top of the mountain, met the NCAA, and faded into inexplicable irrelevance.
No one knows where it will go from here. Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and Caris LeVert (although I have an educated hunch) … they may have all put on the Maize and Blue for the final time. If the millions come calling and the next ceiling too risky, that probably is the smart play anyway.
This has been a magical run, and not that I believe fate exists, but sometimes in sports it meets destiny, and you’ve got no shot.
As (insert guy from Kentucky that I will rue forever’s number’s) shot was halfway in the air and Caris LeVert’s hand was extended, time almost seemed to stop for that moment. Halfway through, ill advised as it may have been considering the circumstances (Kentucky owning Michigan inside), you knew it was going down.
Fate doesn’t exist, until sometimes it does, allegedly.
And as the heat picked up late outside, a harbinger of a long-awaited Midwestern-missed 70-ish degree day to come, just as those Wildcats did with hitting anything and everything late when it mattered, you were sad, but you weren’t.
Michigan gave it their best shot. Sometimes, it’s one punch too little. There is no failure in losing, only in not trying. How far this program has come.
We On. Even when sometimes, We Not.