Villanova beat Kansas. They beat up and beat down Oklahoma. And in the end, on the last play of the game, with a three pointer at the buzzer, they beat North Carolina too. “This was the stuff of legends, after a malaise of mediocrity and blowouts had settled over the NCAA Tournament. This was a championship game for the ages after meager and mediocre Final Four.”
Nova earned this. They completely earned the National Championship Trophy. The Wildcats dominated Oklahoma in the first game of the Final Four. They found their groove from beyond the arc just as March turned wild, with their team at the helm. And then they outlasted arguably the best team not to win a national title. On any other night, North Carolina would have been good enough to win, but not last night.
Last night, the Villanova win and the North Carolina loss was one for the ages. And while the win was earned and very real, it was also almost imaginary and make believe. It was real and unreal, surreal and serene, fabulous and fantastic, unbelievable and improbable, absurd and bizarre all at the same time. The game, unlike any other game, was dreamlike in the wildest sense and nightmarish in the worst.
Magic is not a word you hear in church or find in a good sense in the Bible. But it’s a good word nonetheless. Yes there is “Black” magic, but that has no place here. I’m talking about virgin magic as pure as freshly falling, driven snow. And Villanova, while not a Cinderella team last night like they were oh, so many years ago in 1985 when Rally Massimino’s team beat Georgetown, found the glass slipper and slipped it on just seconds before midnight.
The Villanova / North Carolina game was truly made of magic, as it had all of the same ingredients that magic has. No, magic is not a “Christian” word, per se, but the essence of magic is certainly spiritual. And anything spiritual is wonderful and delightful and charming and captivating and thrilling and chilling all at once.
Villanova’s winsome win was misty and mystic, miraculous and yes, magical.
This game, above just about any other and every other NCAA game we’ve ever seen, was fairy-tale fanciful, story book beautiful and yes, enchanting; it was simply full of pixy dust dazzle. “This game was magic and mania, containing the soul-crushing sorrow and unbridled joy of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, all at once.”
Magical moments included one with Marcus Paige, who channeled so much will and hope and toughness in a surging North Carolina 10-point comeback over the final five minutes, stepped up to the plate and did the impossible: he heaved a 3-point shot, after a double-clutch, and tied the game. Paige pulled this rabbit out of his hat with everything on the line that he and his teammates and his coach craved.
Then there was Kris Jenkins, who took a perfect pass and hit a perfect shot; Jenkins broke the tie and hit the game winner with a buzzer-beater that swished through the net with no time left on the clock. It was a shot heard round the basketball world, never to be forgotten.
This game was so riveting, so exhilarating and so electrifying that “it amplifies the joy and the sorrow for the winners and losers alike. No wonder then that the greatest ending perhaps of all time also gave us the worst heartache ever. Right along with the kind of joy that is reserved for the very few, and the very fortunate, and of course the very deserving.
“But there is, as always in life, another side. It’s our complications that reach us, the disparities and razor-thin margins between joy and depression that makes sports so pure. That ebullient moment in time on the floor was as real and powerful as what was unfolding” so near and yet so far away on the North Carolina bench as heads were hung low and tears began to flow.
In one of the greatest basketball games ever played, we saw the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And such is life. In life there are times when we win big and there are times when we lose large. We both come close and fail and almost lose it and win. And that’s the mystery of this life. Our failures seem like the end and our victories seem like we’ve only just begun. And the mystery of this life is learning how to both enjoy the thrill of victory and endure the agony of defeat, both all at once at the same time.