The University of Virginia’s basketball team lost a regional final Sunday that would have sent it to the NCAA Final Four in the worst way possible – by squandering a big lead down the stretch, 15 points in the last 9 1/2 minutes, to be precise.
Better to be blown out from the start and stare at an inevitability all game? Yep, in my book.
Losing late, with victory so close and contested, is harsh. The bigger the game, the more it haunts. Losing late, after you were practically cruising through the later stages, is agonizing. For player and for fan. Why was my kid, a recent U.Va. grad, crying in a San Francisco bar with U.Va. friends as it all came unglued? Because of her love and empathy for her school and her former peers who were so powerful all season, and then were so powerless to stop Syracuse’s winning surge.
The agony of defeat is more than just a poetic phrase.
Pundits say coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers poised to remain among the national elite even with the loss of forwards Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey and All-American guard Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon is a tremendous natural leader, the kind of cool-headed and captivating presence that is not easily replaced. So we shall see about who fills that critical leadership void.
Perhaps Bennett truly has U.Va. – which was a No. 1 tournament seed for the second time in three years – to the point where it simply reloads with elite recruits where others must rebuild. Proof will come soon enough. That of course will do nothing for the seniors who endured the kind of physical letdown that leaves emotional scars.
They had it, and they lost it. Ruminating on how and why will be a lifelong exercise in angst.
This story came out a couple of weeks ago and I forgot to post it here. It’s my second contribution to the great local magazine Distinction, for which I plan to continue to submit good stuff.
This one is extremely good stuff, in that it’s about the stunning struggle and enduring recovery of the wife of a local PGA Tour golfer. Audrey Leishman a year ago became suddenly and deathly ill while her husband Marc, one of the world’s top-ranked golfers, was practicing in Augusta, Georgia for the Masters. He rushed back to find Audrey, the mother of two young sons, with very little chance to survive.
The future president of the United States just was voted the best basketball player, and the best defensive player, in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
OK, maybe Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon is just the future secretary of state.
In any event, Brogdon, the first ACC player to win both of those honors in the same season, is on the very short list of the most impressive and authentic collegiate student-athletes I had the good fortune to encounter in my few decades as a sports writer.
I got Brogdon during two of his early years at U.Va., when coach Tony Bennett was building the foundation of what has become one of the nation’s strongest and steadiest hoops structures.
From Atlanta, Brogdon was a perfect leadership vessel for Bennett both on the court and as an ambassador among academically oriented elite recruits. Bennett preaches selfless play and relentless team defense, strategies that fit Brogdon’s humility and maturity. And Brogdon is pursuing a master’s in public policy with an eye toward solving problems on a global scale.
He was honored this year with a modest room on U.Va.’s Range – i.e. the Lawn, but for grad students. Brogdon is a study in unflustered self-assurance and self-control, in measured words, bold action and higher principals.
I could quote his statistics, but they don’t really matter. Suffice to say Brogdon could have an NBA future, but that the pro athlete’s mantle is just a small part of what Brogdon is about, a la Princeton’s Bill Bradley from way back in the day.
So why bother linking? Because it touches on an array of (familiar to some of us) woes and angers and shocks of career newspaper people at odds with a world in which career newspaper people are all but extinct.
It isn’t necessarily climb-onto-the-window-ledge stuff — although it is hardly happy talk. What it is is a paean to a lost era and to its ramifications for remaining newsrooms, as well as for the proverbial halls of power — municipal or otherwise — flush with fresh acres to dally and deal now that prying eyes are fewer and farther between.
I pass it along with pride for having participated for so long, disquieted now by decayed, lusterless landscapes where journalistic indifference and ineptitude reign.
Walked over to vote in the primary today. Was confronted with two sheets of paper of different colors at the check-in desk, one with a long list of Republican presidential candidates, the other with three names of Democratic candidates. Lady at the table asked me which color paper, i.e. which ballot, I wanted embedded onto my card.
It was then, I would say really for the first time, staring at those names, choosing between those sheets of paper, that the surreal, stark, train wreck fascination, national humiliation of this election year slapped me in the face. In those few seconds, more than ever, my heart sank and my stomach flipped in response to my eyes scanning the available options.
I am not a political person, in the way we all know ramped-up political people. Screeds on social media get the screeder unfollowed. I know where I fall on most issues important to the country. But I’ve never mustered the strident fire to overcome the general sense of cynicism, knee-capping and inevitability that flavors American politics, hell, all politics.
But now, chagrin is my overwhelming emotion of the day. It floats above the questions that have circulated for months, but that drop like Wile E. Coyote’s anvil upon a dispirited heart in the unforgiving light of day: what the hell is happening here? Why? And what will become of us?