Here’s to the Virginia Cavaliers – National College Basketball Champions

Here’s to those who keep getting knocked down, keep getting back on their feet and ultimately
stand on top of the world. Here’s to those who refuse to accept the reputation that they can’t get it done.
Here’s to those who have the character to fight back again and again.

Here’s to the Virginia Cavaliers. National College Basketball Champions.

One year after the greatest embarrassment a team can endure, Virginia beat a valiant and talented Texas Tech
squad in overtime to finally wear their first crown.

It was only last year that the Cavaliers became the first number one seed to fall in the opening round of March
Madness to a 16-seed, UMBC, otherwise known as the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
It had never happened before and most felt it might never happen.
That’s the horror story everyone remembers because it was only a year ago.
But Virginia had been knocked to the floor before. Several times. And you had to wonder. Was this the kind
of fate UVA would be known for all-time?

Let us count the others.
In 2014, Virginia was the top seed in the East. They were beaten by No. 4 Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen.
In 2015, as a #2 in the East, again floored by the #7 Spartans in their second game.

How about the next year, as the Number One seed in the Midwest, many of us recall their upset at the hands of
the Syracuse Orange in the Elite Eight. Syracuse was seeded 10th that season.
After losing to Florida in 2017, came the shocker a year ago right out of the box.

In writing about the tournament following selection Sunday, I did fall on my sword in many instances, but
I did feel Virginia was the best of the ACC and would prevail into the Final Four.
They did better than that.

After Duke and North Carolina, Virginia has won the most titles in their conference.This is no Johnny-come-lately
basketball power.

But they endured so many disappointments until they finally crashed through.
Great credit to their grind-it-out style predicated on their tenacious defense.
And their head coach Tony Bennett, the model of class in his profession.
A salute to the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, who surprised everyone getting as far as they did.
When you lose in the final game, especially in overtime, you know you had the goods to win it all.
In many ways, what Texas Tech accomplished was a nod to the great Bob Knight, who coached them after
leaving Indiana. His son, Pat, also led the Red Raiders after Knight departed.
Their coach Chris Beard, was relatively unknown to fans of the sport.
But he was hardly a stranger for those who knew of his abilities for years. Starting, perhaps, with the iconic
Bob Knight.

But it’s Virginia’s time. Finally. Well-earned.
Hail to the Cavaliers.

It seems like the chief topic of conversation almost every week centers on the officiating of a game.
The focus has largely been about the NFL, but now, to no one’s surprise, college basketball and its crown jewel,the Final Four claimed the spotlight.

In the Virginia-Auburn national semifinal, the top-seed Cavaliers outlasted the upstart Tigers on a play with six-tenths
of a second remaining. Trailing by two, Kyle Guy was fouled on a three-point attempt from the corner. That meant Guy was
awarded three foul shots, which he made, bringing Virginia from a two-point deficit to a one-point lead with time just
about evaporated. The replay indicated that Guy was indeed fouled because the Auburn player jumped from one spot to
another, bumping Guy and legitimately sending him to the free-throw line.
What was unnoticed by virtually every observer was a double-dribble violation seconds before on that final possession
which if called, would have given Auburn the ball, and the upset win.

Gene Steratore, the CBS rules analyst, noticed the violation which hadn’t been called by the officials, and not picked up
by anyone else.

Once again, cries that “the wrong team won” dominated the post-game talk, echoing the NFL’s NFC conference championship
game, when a no-call by the officials on an obvious pass interference, prevented the Saints from beating the Rams.
There is no better way to ruin the excitement and euphoria of a sports event than to constantly have moments at the
end of games where you’re forced to hold your breath anticipating an officials ruling or a non-call that may affect the outcome.
You can argue that the idea is to “get it right” and new and improved technology can and must be employed to scrutinize every play and
every move by every player.

I am not advocating mistakes by officials. But I wonder how we were able to enjoy the crucial, thrilling moments of sports for
over a century, without second and third looks at plays.

The answer is, we were able to, understanding and recognizing that there were times officials erred.
Sports is entertainment. If it isn’t, it’s lost.

What is gained by saying the wrong team won? Does it make the loser feel good? Does it make the winner feel good?

That kind of talk is a downer. A wet blanket that can make the viewer wonder why he watched in the first place.
I believe TV replay has gone too far. I am probably in the minority. That’s fine with me.

Rarely do I ever defend athletes who lose their composure for any reason on the field of play. Especially when it comes to the fans who pay their way into the ballpark. As we all know, they are the ones paying the huge salaries superstars earn.

But I am forced to step out of character in regard to Bryce Harper, who signed a $33 million deal with the Phillies as a free agent
Harper made his first appearance against his former team, the Nationals, in Washington recently, and it wasn’t pretty.
In an attempt to take the high road, on the eve of the series between the teams, Harper expressed his genuine love for his
time with the Nationals, saying he had the utmost respect for an organization that cared for the players and the fans.
His decision to leave was on business terms, something he was entitled to do. We all understand that.
But the good will came to an abrupt end early, when Harper was booed mightily, beginning with the announcement of the
starting lineups, through the video tribute to him, and to his first plate appearance in the first inning. It didn’t end there.
When Harper struck out, the ballpark erupted in cheers.

Two innings later he struck out again. The fans were loving it.
But as we also know, the tide turns in baseball, as it does in life.
In his next at-bat Harper doubled. He followed that up with an RBI single and then capped it off with a 458-foot two run homer.
He flipped his bat, unfortunately in the direction of the Nationals dugout before trotting around the bases.
Other than the direction in which Bryce Harper flipped his bat, any reaction to the loud jeers and the fans in the bleachers
wearing T-shirts with the word “traitor”, was acceptable to me.

Too often, we are witnessing unruly, rude, and crude behavior by fans, who believe they have the right to express themselves
in any fashion they wish, just because they are paying customers.

It is not a matter of freedom of speech. Sometimes those who demand it, only do so if you agree with them.
Fans have to remember, those receiving outlandish paychecks are only doing so because the owners of teams can and want
to shell out these fortunes. No one is putting a gun to their heads.

You can question the owner, but don’t knock the player.
Bryce Harper tried to take the high road, but his former fans took the low road.

Because it is a long season, one of the keys to winning teams in baseball, has always been the chemistry established in the
clubhouse and extending to the diamond.

Camaraderie once was the barometer in determining if 25 players could, in effect, live the life of a 162-game season.
There are countless hours players spend together in traveling on buses and airplanes, not to mention the time in the
locker room. Many don’t realize that players usually arrive at the ballpark as much as six hours before a game.
There was a time, when conversation, joking with one another, card games, and simply hanging out, brought players closer together.

Then it began to change. With the advent of video games, players would sit facing inside their locker, occupied by those gadgets.

This wasn’t a universal transformation. But there was a definite pattern.

Instead of sitting by their lockers and facing out toward the middle of the clubhouse, players were insulated. Talk was muted.
Now, it’s the cellphone. Everyone is on his phone. Texting, talking, tapping out e-mails.


It’s the way we’ve all become.

I’m not putting it down. It’s way of the world. It’s the sign of the times.

Sometimes, if you do look up, you see how the world may have stopped verbal and visual communication.

People don’t seem to notice their surroundings, they don’t notice other people, they don’t see beauty, they don’t see activity.

They are lost in their own world.

Again, it’s the way things have come to be. No one is changing anything. It’s just an observation.

And the picture inside the baseball clubhouse is merely a microcosm of the world outside.

Having said that…I’m not giving up my cell phone!