If you are not a March Madness fan, please keep reading anyway. I promise, this is not about basketball. Not just about basketball, anyway…
It’s been a long time since a sports team made my cry tears of joy, but Florida Gulf Coast University did tonight with their 81-71 win over San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament.
It wasn’t their Cinderella status as the extreme underdog. It wasn’t their history-making victory as the first 15-seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16. It wasn’t even all those young men chanting their coach’s name after the game (although that was pretty special).
It was the sheer JOY. They played with joy, they won with joy, they celebrated with joy. These are kids who enjoy playing this game, and as a result, they play it really, really well. It was the most fun I’ve seen any team have in this tournament ever, and I grew up in Indiana. In other words, I’ve been watching this tournament since before any of those players were born.
Until Friday, I had never heard of Florida Gulf Coast University, but now they are indelibly etched into my March Madness memories, along with being at the Hard Rock Café in New York City with all my high school friends during spring break, screaming at the top of our lungs as Louisville won it all, and the following year, when Indiana took the title during my unexpectedly homesick freshman year of college in Texas, and my first year practicing law at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, when I outbid the partners in the firm’s auction to buy Kentucky, winning a pot that was bigger than my bonus and shocking the firm as not only the first first-year to ever win it, but the first woman (not that we were gambling or anything…).
And as much as this tournament means to me, it pales in comparison to what it must mean to those kids. All of them. The thousands who have played in it for the past 75 years. I wish all of them could experience it like the Eagles of FGCU – with pure joy and an abundance of teamwork. You see, the Florida Gulf Coast wins have all been bolstered by my favorite play in any sport — the Alley-Oop, which happens when one player has a chance to shoot the ball, but instead passes it to a teammate to get the to dunk. This is the “sacrifice fly” of basketball, and I love it – the epitome of athleticism, teamwork and sportsmanship.
Beyond their play on the court, the players and their coach seem like good people off the court. I am moved and impressed by sophomore Brett Comer, who, in memory of the father he lost less than three years ago, wrote these words:
As a confirmed non-fan of tattoes, I still think this one is pretty great. If you can’t read it, this is what it says:
Happiness is not something ready made
It comes from your own actions
You may not control all the events that happen to you
But you can decide not to be reduced by them
Love never hate; forgive but never forget
Live the life you’ve dreamed to the fullest
— Pursuit of Happiness
So keep those words in mind as you strive to reach your goals and make your dreams come true, remembering that they were written by a young man, not yet old enough to drink, who has already buried a parent and made sports history.