So, my bio clearly states I went to Davidson College as an undergrad. I worked there for six years as the Director of Community Service and Bonner Scholar Programs. I live in the small college town still. When I was applying to colleges, I really wanted to go to Notre Dame. I am a sports fan, a fiendish, obsessed sports fan- the kind of girl who carried a couple different televisions into one room back before the current college bowl system so that I could watch football bowl games all day long on January 1st. But Notre Dame wait-listed me, and so on the day before I had to make a decision, I choose Davidson– a divison 1 school that played– oh, my hurt heart- Divison 3 football. But they played Divison 1 soccer, and I am a girl from a soccer family. My brother’s an accomplished college soccer coach. I coached high school ball when I taught. And Davidson’s soccer team went to the Final Four my freshmen year (and my grades were totally affected by my roadtripping all over the south to go to the games. If my mother is reading this, that’s not true. My grades were what they were just because I was adjusting to college.). There was nothing like watching that underdog team make its way through the tournament– winning penalty kick overtimes over and over again. And nothing like cheering them on in the Final Four on our campus (we had won the bid to host the Final Four long before anyone imagined we’d make it to the soccer dance). Over my undergraduate years, a new coach started building our basketball team, and, by my second year out, the team had made it to its first NCAA tournament in recent history. We lost in the first round, but it was a taste of March Madness that we all savored. And we’ve been back a few times since, little darlings that people admire for a moment on their bracket sheets (how cute that a school of 1700 made it in) before they keep going. But this year, the team has done the unbelievable. They’ve made it to the Sweet 16. A few weeks ago, I was in Amherst, Massachusetts– long before the tournament teams were done with their regular seasons. Someone asked where I was from and I explained that Davidson was just north of Charlotte, a college town with a basketball team that would be the Cinderella of this year’s tournament. “Oh really,” he asked, mildly amused by me (how cute that this writer girl thinks she knows basketball). “Remember Gonzaga ten years ago, back before anyone even knew how to say it or where it was? That’s Davidson. Seriously, choose us on your bracket.” I have no idea if he chose us, but I think the whole darn nation now realizes that they should have. On Friday, Davidson, powered by a compelling trio of seniors, two juniors who just break your heart with their earnestness on the court, a sophomore who has a brother who also went to the dance with another team, and another sophomore who looks more like an innocent than a superstar (but is, indeed, a superstar– not just for us but is the best three point shooter in the country. For real), beat– I kid you not– Gonzaga. The only place that probably had us going all the way was the bracket created based on the academic acheivements of the basketball teams. And, yet, here these guys are, defying all expectations. You should read about these guys. They have the longest winning streak in the country. They are the kind of young men who make you feel good about the state of college athletics today. And they are also the young men that led the people in this town to honk their car horns for two straight hours tonight after they put away #2 Georgetown in the tournament today. We’re headed to the sweet 16 on Friday (as the smallest school). And though most of the world is probably mad at these fellas for spoiling their brackets, you can’t help but root for a team that sings Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline as the seconds wind down on the game clock.
** the photo is from my early days as a fan. I tend to be a couch-sitting, quiet, intense fan these days, but the roots were planted back when I sported the colors and joined in on the cheers.