Heartbreak

Heartbreak is a funny thing.  After something devastating and emotionally scarring happens to you, you’re never quite the same again.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this loss affects my life more than the players, coaches, managers, trainers or anyone a part of the Michigan basketball program because that would be a bold-faced lie.  But that doesn’t mean that this loss wasn’t devastating all the same.

The turning point in the game was either when Mitch McGary got his 4th foul with 9:11 left or when Trey Burke has one of the cleanest blocks in the world called a foul, which was his 3rd with 5:09 left.  Take your pick.

The referees were dog shit.  You could say horrible, brutal, or pathetic, but it still isn’t quite the right adjective.  They were just simply dog shit.

This journey through the tournament will still be a memorable one, and is absolutely something to be proud of.  But this team will always be remembered as a team that came up just short.  I’m not faulting them or saying that this season was a total loss, this team went further then I ever could have dreamed.  I thought they always had potential but there were still question marks about how successful they could be.  They struggled on the road and lost to a horrific Penn State team, but come tournament time there was a huge change.  Obviously the major catalyst for the change was the play of Mitch McGary.  His enthusiasm and dominance in the post was evident and he developed over the last three weeks more quickly than anyone I have ever seen in my entire life.  Trey Burke was terrific for most of the tournament, and played well when he needed too, save for the Syracuse game.  Spike Albrecht took over for Nik Stauskas and shot the lights out of the gym during the National Championship game and it looks like Derrick Walton won’t be starting as soon as people may have thought.  It was an impressive development on all aspects and yet, they still came up short.

This trip for me will always be a memorable one.  The scene in Atlanta was simply incredible and their setup was phenomenal.  Bracket Town was solid and the free concerts in Centennial Park were great.  I’ll always remember checking out the Zach Brown Band, Macklemore and Flo-Rida, as well as going to the World of Coca-Cola and the Aquarium, but something will always be missing.  The trip will always be remembered as a good one, but never a great one.  

There are quite a few sports related items on my bucket list and seeing Michigan basketball win a National Championship in person is one of them.  To see your alma mater cutting down the nets and celebrating with the trophy must be magical.  There are always moments that are better when experienced in person and this is one of those moments.

What else is on my sports-related bucket list you ask?

  • See Michigan hockey win a National Championship in person
  • See Michigan football win a National Championship in person
  • See the Detroit Lions win a Super Bowl in person
  • See the Detroit Red Wings win a Stanley Cup in person
  • See a no hitter in person
  • See a perfect game in person

You get the idea.

Sure there are other things on the list that aren’t sports-related and seemingly more attainable than witnessing a perfect game, but they’re not as exciting or satisfying.  Not in the long run anyways.  I’ve already been skydiving and while it was pretty insane and exhilarating to jump out of a perfectly fine airplane, it still isn’t the same as seeing your team win it all.  When I went skydiving I wore all Michigan apparel and my last action before jumping out of the airplane was screaming “Let’s Go Blue” at the top of my lungs.  It’s how I was born and bred to be.

Perhaps it’s because Michigan basketball went through such dark times that I wanted this so badly.  I remember my first basketball game in Crisler, November 26th, 1996.  My Papa had four season tickets that were given to him because Fritz Crisler owed him a favor and they were right in front of Bo Schembechler’s seats.  Michigan was playing Ball State and Robert “Tractor” Traylor (RIP) shattered the backboard right by our section.  It’s my first memory of Michigan basketball and I’ll never forget it, I’ve loved this team ever since.

I remember the Steve Fisher days.

I remember when the Ed Martin scandal broke.  Some of my favorite players legacies were tarnished.  To this day Louis Bullock and Tractor Traylor are two of my favorite players to ever don the Michigan uniform.

I remember the Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker days too.

I remember cheering on Louis Bullock, Tractor Traylor, Maurice Taylor, Maceo Baston, Leon Jones, Jamal Crawford, LaVell Blanchard, Bernard Robinson Jr, Lester Abram, Brent Petway, Daniel Horton and Dion Harris.

I remember going to Michigan basketball games when Crisler was only 1/3 full and everyone was completely disinterested.  The student section was sparse, and the Alumni couldn’t have cared less.  The idea of a practice facility and Crisler no longer looking like a pit were a dream.  The days of camping out for games to sit in the student section seemed to be a fantasy.

John Beilein rebuilt this program and I will be forever thankful; so should the rest of you.  This team has restored some of my childhood that was taken away because of Ed Martin.  That 1998 Big Ten Tournament Championship has been vacated and it’s the only one that Michigan has won in my lifetime.

Right now it sucks.  It hurts.  I started writing this as we were driving back from Atlanta at 2:00 AM because we couldn’t stand to stay there any longer.  It’s awful to think that they came so close and yet were so far away.  Soul crushing is the best way to put it.

But at the same time, this team gives you hope for the future.  Beilein at the helm with an immense amount of talent makes me excited.  This team could be great again next year, maybe even win a Big Ten Tournament Championship that has been so elusive.  The team this year brought the Fab Five back together and even got all of them in the same building to watch a game, even if it wasn’t all together.  A Fab Five reunion was needed and this team made it happen through their improbable run.  You could say that this team marked the end of the healing of the Michigan basketball family.  It was broken and it has been a slow process putting it back together.  But I think we can finally say that the relationships have been fixed, and the family is back together.

I just hope that this means there will be a championship in the future and I really hope that I’m fortunate enough to be there when it happens.  I will always bleed maize and blue until I die.  Sports may affect my life and emotions more than they should, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.  What’s the point in watching if you aren’t going to fully invest yourself?  Sticking with your team through the ups and downs is the only way to do it.  You shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the good times if you can’t put up with the bad.  Plus, dealing with the bad just makes the good that much sweeter.

No matter what the future holds, Forever Go Blue.

Some other great reads about the game:

USA Today

Grantland

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