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Lorton: Sports thrive on ‘Cinderella’ stories (March 27)

Isaac Lorton | Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 

Everything is right in the world of sports.

Tiger is back on top, the Blackhawks finally lost and are consistently losing again, the Heat are still going for the record (don’t worry, they won’t get it), Dirk Nowitzki has a beard, MLB Opening Day is four days away and No. 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast is in the Sweet Sixteen.

Wait, that’s not right. 

Or is it?

Underdog stories are what keep fans watching sports. Name a sports movie where the No. 1 team, or the best player, with no adversity goes out and wins like expected to. That would be one of the most boring movies ever, kind of like “There Will be Blood” (sorry DDL). Rather, people want to see “Miracle” or “Rudy” (I had to), or the upcoming movie “42,” and they flock to a great Cinderella story like Notre Dame students flocked to ND Confessions. (It’s a great way to kill time.) 

Am I going to be one of those people to call out the bandwagoners here? No. I am all for an underdog team getting some recognition, because when the next lockout happens or sanctions are handed down for preferential treatment, we can remember this as a moment in sports where “sports” was truly exemplified. Sports and surprise stories go hand-in-hand. 

Sports thrive on the unexpected, which is why Florida Gulf Coast made such a splash and continues to make waves. 

Teams like the No. 9 seed, the Wichita State Shockers, and the No. 13 seed, the LaSalle Explorers, would both be extremely noteworthy Cinderellas in the tournament if it were not for the Eagles. Imagine all the puns that could be made using Wichita State’s and LaSalle’s mascots (“Wichita State shocks the world” or “LaSalle exploring new territory”), but instead the Eagles are the ones garnering all of the attention. Why? Like I said, people love the underdog, and not just any underdog, a No. 15 seed Cinderella. 

The Eagles are the ultimate Cinderella. As ESPNSportsInfo pointed out on Twitter, “Florida Gulf Coast is still the only undefeated team in NCAA Tournament history.” This is the first tournament appearance ever for the Eagles and they look like they are seasoned veterans. 

Never before has a No. 15 seed reached the Sweet Sixteen. The Eagles took down No. 2 Georgetown, 78-68, and then-No. 7 seed San Diego State, 81-71. These weren’t flukes or lucky or last-second wins. Florida Gulf Coast came in with a plan, executed the plan and simply outplayed the Hoyas and Aztecs. 

The mastermind behind these gameplans was Eagles coach Andy Enfield. Like his team, he has had an interesting journey to this point as well. He began as a consultant at Arthur Andersen out of college, started giving shooting clinics all over, ended up working with the Bucks and then for the Celtics from 1998-2000, then worked for and invested in a medical business called TractManager, before he finally ended up at Florida Gulf Coast.         

Now the Eagles are on the verge of making it to the Elite Eight. All they have to do is go through in-state rival, No. 3 Florida. 

There are two ways to look at this. Either out of spite and cynicism, you root against the Eagles because you are holding on to the last hopes of your already-destroyed bracket, or you are an anti-bandwagon fan and have no heart. 

Or you can cheer for something that has never been done before. And if you are going to cheer for something that has never been done before, why not the Eagles? After a year in college basketball where anything could happen, imagine seeing a No. 15 seed reach the Elite Eight, or even the Final Four or the national championship.  

In these crazy basketball times, it would seem fitting if the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles did go all the way and please sports fans everywhere as the ultimate Cinderella.      

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.