As an IU fan, Sundays epic battle between two B1G monsters in Indiana and Michigan, was UH-MAZING! Not to mention the heart gripping ending and the conference championship implications.
When that ball aka “The Rock” fell off of the rim, after having hung there for what seem like forever, I jumped, screaming, and lost all regard for whether a baby was asleep in my house or not (thankfully none were). However, when I saw the flood of emotion that came over Victor Oladipo and the amazing shot of Tom Crean sharing that moment with his shooting star of a guard, I thought…this is why I love sports and specifically college basketball. The PASSION that streamed down their faces screamed to everyone watching…this matters…we care.
As a fan, the win gives me bragging rights, makes me want to spend some money on IU gear for me and the boys (Kelley is from Lexington, KY and bleeds UK blue so I have given up her allegiance), and puts me in a good mood for the rest of the afternoon.
For Tom Crean and that IU basketball team, it “mattered” beyond what any casual observer, band wagon fan, or even the most dedicated alum could ever understand.
Tom Crean took a job that’s only appeal (beyond a contract) was a history that was…well…history…and a hopeful future that was just a hope in the future. The state of IU basketball when he took the job was horrendous, to say the least. He had no momentum…no stars…fewer scholarships…and probably even fewer sympathizers around the B1G. He began by rolling up his sleeves, not just so he could start building for the future, but also having to clear out much of the garbage left from the previous regime.
He plodded through losing season, all the while casting a vision for players of what could be and doing everything in his and his coaching staff’s power to develop those players for that future. He demonstrated passion to his players and IU nation, when on the surface it didn’t seam like there was much to be passionate about.
Players bought into the vision, embraced the process, and owned the contagious passion their coach exuded.
Now after having experienced a surprise run last year and having withstood the weight of expectation coming into this year, IU won the outright B1G conference championship for the first time in 20yrs. The future hope…or at least a part of it…has arrived. The passion that Crean showed at his very first press conference is now justified. The visions he casts to recruits of adding banners is a reality.
Those tears shared by coach and player alike were the tears of people who believed through adversity and now are beginning to experience a glimpse of the reward.
After the game, we see this SAME Tom Crean hunt down Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, who was apart of the coaching staff that sent IU reeling and created the hand Crean was dealt, and give him the “BIZ-NASS”. Though it has not been confirmed or denied, some have reported that Meyer made some negative remark to Crean in the handshake line to which Crean responded. It’s not clear how exactly it started, but both men had quite the heated exchange. However, most of the media coverage has been focused on giving Tom Crean a slap on the wrist and making it about him going “overboard”.
The video of this encounter can be seen HERE.
You can see more heated interactions at almost any basketball game between coaches and officials than ANYTHING in that brief “encounter” between Crean and Meyer.
NOW, people expect the passionate coach in perhaps one of the highest emotional points of his life to respond other worldly and act like what he has gone through to get there didn’t matter?!? Especially when in the presence of someone who contributed negatively to that sojourn?!? Especially IF that person made a derogatory remark?!?
To use Chris Rock’s “Tiger Gone Crazy” bit, Crean didn’t go “crazy”…CREAN WENT CREAN!!! This guys is passion personified!!! He CARES…about the win…about his players…about his journey…about “the program”…and about anyone who would speak against it…cause to him it MATTERED.
I’m not excusing all “outbursts of passion”. I know that many a brawl, injury, and life altering event has happened as a result of letting an emotional response/reaction go bad. Could he have waited until he wasn’t “as emotional” or at least away from millions of viewers, camera phones, and twitter journalists…sure. He said as much in his apology.
However, the media outlets and others looking to jump in like the propriety police should give the hand slapping routine a break and recognize an incredible story. Recognize the journey of a coach. Recognize the work and incredible effort of players on both sides. Recognize a university and it’s fans.
And recognize the ONE THING that makes every sports “fan” regardless of sport, school color, or mascot, by definition, a “fanatic”…
If you want a “nice” story, go watch the “Buttercream Gang”.
But this is college basketball in MARCH…and the MADNESS is why we love it!