Vol. 9, No. 13
March 29-April 4, 2001
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Final Four: A Tale of Redemption

Maybe the only thing worse than your basketball team losing is listening to someone grope for larger meaning in a game of young people in baggy shorts flipping a ball through a metal ring.

But in this case, our team won, so allow us a moment to draw lessons from the improbable journey of the Maryland Terrapins to the Final Four, which is the semifinals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. (There are over 300 Division I college basketball teams, and never before has Maryland advanced beyond the round of 16.)

It helps that this team is, by outward appearances, a group of decent, well-spoken fellows in an era of jocks with rap sheets and bad attitudes to match. The better players are from Maryland, a throwback to the days before colleges recruited coast to coast like the pros.

But what is special, and what we can learn from, is this team's remarkable rise from mid-season collapse.

This is not a sports column, so we won't recall all the games and scores after Maryland's numbing at-home loss to Duke on that fateful Saturday night in January. Suffice it to say that in the weeks that followed, Maryland had lost confidence, respect and hope. Judging by the foment on talk radio, the players were bums and coach Gary Williams was ticketed for a trip out of College Park clad in a tar-and-feather topcoat. The Terps were not living up to their potential.

You may be the exception, but for most of us, that's the way life goes. Your job feels like you're wearing a rubber sack, and just when your finances are looking grim, your car needs a fuel pump - or worse. You see crises all around and perhaps even suffer a real family tragedy. For whatever reason, it seems cloudy for days.

But the sun comes up again, like it did for the basketball team that plays in College Park. It was hard times for these young men, albeit not life-threatening times. But they looked in the mirror, gritted their teeth and plodded onward, regaining their confidence and composure.

Even if they lose on Saturday evening to arch rival Duke, the Maryland basketball team has taught us a lesson that applies to life as well as sports. They have demonstrated how, in a short time with courage, determination and hard work, potential can be realized and dreams can come true. You can go from burnt toast to the toast of the town.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly