The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

GOLDSTEIN: It was all worth something

Photo by Brian Georgeson

I’m writing this from my bed in New Jersey at 2 a.m., mainly because this makes more sense to me than sleeping at the moment. Sleep is something you do on other nights. You know, nights when your university doesn’t beat the No. 1 team in the entire country.

It still doesn’t feel like it happened yet. I can’t really say for sure when Duane Wilson pulled Marquette back from the brink or when Katin Reinhardt had his several shining moments or when the Bradley Center turned into the kind of ecstatic madhouse that jars you to life even through the television set. It’s all smushed together in my head, hazy enough that it could have happened days ago. When Jalen Brunson’s shot rolled off the rim and into the waiting arms of Sam Hauser, I don’t even remember the next thing that went through my mind.

The facts of the game are pretty incredible – Villanova had a 98.8% chance of victory at one point – yet not that hard to get over. Improbable comebacks happen all the time in college basketball. Teams that are ranked number one in the country lose pretty frequently. In fact, it just happened two weeks ago to Baylor. Marquette has a great offense and Villanova got cold from the field at exactly the wrong time. That’s not a particularly hard concept to grasp.

And yet…

Cynicism is absolute first nature to me as a sports fan. Growing up with the New York Jets as your only rooting interest will do that to one. No lead is ever safe. No player is ever good enough. Watching games feels like a chore that you’re obligated to do instead of something you enjoy. Deep down, there’s this nagging, unspoken question that lingers over everything: “What if there’s no payoff? What if I’ve spent hours watching this team expecting something to go right and nothing ever does?”

If you don’t think that this feeling is real, ask any lifelong Cubs fans about the years before the World Series title. They’ll tell you what it was like to give so much of yourself to a group of individuals that you don’t know, but feel like you do. They’ll tell you about enduring loss after hopeless loss, knowing all the while that it’s asinine to care this much, yet somehow doing it anyways. Eventually, months turn into years and years turn into decades and suddenly people are living lives in devotion to something that never pays out a return on emotional investment.

Marquette never reached anything close to that level of despair. However, the innate pessimism that hovered over the program since the departure of former head coach Buzz Williams was palpable. These last three years have produced Golden Eagle teams that have disappointed on the court, which automatically conditioned a lot of fans to expect the worst. Most of the times, they got it.

Anybody who stampeded out onto the court at the Bradley Center or watched happily from a distant couch felt something when Marquette started its rapid ascent back into the game. It wasn’t joy; not quite yet, anyways. Contentedness would probably be the best way to describe it. We all thought that Marquette was showing a bit of moxie, cutting Villanova’s lead to single digits with less than five minutes left. Nobody had any expectation that the Golden Eagles would win, of course, but the score would be respectable and the overall effort even more so.

My mom was watching the game from across the living room as I tweeted statistics. After Wilson’s fluid stop-and-go dribble-drive layup cut Villanova’s lead to six, she piped up and said, “hey, Marquette might actually win this game!”

“No they’re not,” I immediately shot back, as if I’d never been surer of anything in my life. Even as the final four minutes played out, minutes that will be etched into Marquette lore forever, it never occurred to me that the Golden Eagles could beat Villanova until after Sam Hauser pulled that rebound away from his chest and looked around for a long moment. It seemed as though he could hardly believe that, yes, this was really happening. The fans were right there with him.

That absolute failure of cynicism – not the actual events themselves ­– is what makes this hard to believe even now. Marquette isn’t supposed to win these kinds of games, at least not for as long as I’ve cared about the team, which admittedly is a very short time. We all expected the worst and the worst never came.

In its place came something else: fulfillment, which manifested itself in the form of pandemonium. People ran en masse to a place that’s usually off limits to hug people that they barely knew and begin a night that they simultaneously won’t remember and will never, ever forget. It was impossible to even be jealous of all my friends who were on the hardwood in Milwaukee while I was 900 miles away in New Jersey, frantically texting them to take tons of pictures.

Instead, I just felt happy that all the time Marquette fans poured into this team was worth something. That the current seniors will have an “I was there” moment to tell their children about someday. That the players and coaches who have labored so hard finally have a marquee achievement to show for it. Most of all, I’m happy that there’s still a wonderful place – sports – where pure belief can still be rewarded.

Yes, Marquette still has a regular season left to play and you still have a life to keep on living. This euphoric sensation, like that of all victories, is fleeting. But it meant something more to everyone in the Marquette community, especially the students packed together in a gold and blue throng on the Al McGuire court. All they wanted was hope. Now they have it.

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *