Adams: Until sports return…
Hayden Adams | Monday, March 23, 2020
As I write my first Sports Authority as Sports Editor, my first since the COVID-19 outbreak has caused Notre Dame to cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the semester and since the sports world has gone on hiatus, I turn the channel to CBS. I sit watching Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s daily press conference updating the state of the disease in Kentucky. This was not my intention.
The reason I put on CBS was to watch their rebroadcast of the 1992 Elite Eight matchup between Kentucky and Duke in the NCAA Tournament. A lot of channels are now employing this strategy without new athletic events to broadcast, and The Observer’s Sports department will have to find out our own strategy, but I have a few ideas in the works for our loyal followers out there.
But back to the main topic, I want to watch one of — if not the most — legendary games in the history of college basketball. For those college basketball buffs out there who know the result of the game, you may be wondering why I, a Kentucky native and University of Kentucky fan, would want to watch that game. I’ll get to that in a second.
For those less aware of college basketball lore, in 1992, Duke was coming off of a national championship and was the No. 1 team in the country. They were set for a matchup with No. 2 seed Kentucky with a Final Four bid on the line, and this was Kentucky’s first year off of probation for a scandal in which they paid recruits, adding to the atmosphere of the showdown between literal bluebloods.
In a gritty, back-and-forth game that went to overtime and included one Kentucky player getting stepped on, Christian Laettner hit a turnaround shot from the free throw line at the buzzer to cap off an essentially perfect game (10-10 from the field, 10-10 from the free throw line) and give Duke a one-point win as they went on to establish a dynasty with a second straight national championship.
Why on God’s green earth would I want to watch that heartbreaking defeat again? I’ll tell you why.
It’s because that game is the emblematic of what sports mean to people.
As I’m sure even fewer people reading this are aware, that Kentucky team’s seniors are known as “The Unforgettables,” because when the scandal hit the program, all the best players left, but one Indiana and three Kentucky natives stuck around and led the program back from the brink of oblivion. Their names are Sean Woods, Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus and John Pelphrey.
Every time I see that game again, as Woods banks in a crazy one-handed floater from the free throw line to go up one with 2.1 seconds left, a part of me still believes Kentucky will win the game. That is objectively insane of me. But I can’t help it, because that’s what Kentucky basketball means to me.
There’s a reason it means that much. It’s the same reason the story of a team manager getting to see the court for the first time pulls so heavily on our heartstrings. It’s the same reason an athlete pours his or her blood, sweat and tears into their craft. And it’s the same reason this stoppage in sports which the coronavirus has caused hurts so much.
Sports are one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity — right after his only son and sliced bread.
Sports provide a sense of unity and bring people together, and they are the source of some of the most memorable moments in people’s lives. That’s why that ’92 loss still hurts so much, but also why I am legitimately upset that, even in the midst of a national crisis where the governor’s updates are important, his talk spared me from seeing Laettner’s shot.
Let me see it, Andy.
Let me relive the pain so many members of the Big Blue nation have felt for decades since then: the same pain Adam Morrison felt while crying on the floor as Gonzaga lost in the tournament, the same pain Michigan fans felt when they saw Chris Webber call a timeout he didn’t have in the ’93 national championship and the same pain that all of us fanatics now feel that we don’t have sports to turn to in a time when we need them desperately to take our mind off of the strife we must currently endure.
I believe that, after we get through this, we will, in many regards, come out better than we were before. In terms of this discussion, I think people will realize, (a) there are more important things than sports, but also, (b) we don’t realize just how much they matter to us, and the collective appreciation of sports will only grow now that we are forced to live without them.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and the grass is always greener on the other side. We will get through this, and we, as well as sports, will be better for it. But for now, I’m content to sit back and watch all the heartbreaking reruns television has to offer, because they all remind me of what I have to look forward to when this is over.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.