When Christian Watford’s three pointer swished through tonight with 0:00 on the clock and Indiana ahead by one point on the scoreboard, that is what I felt.
Image credit: Joe Eke via @TomCrean
You may be thinking: Brojangles, you watched the IU game by yourself, in your apartment, alternately jumping around screaming like a madman and taking notes in prep for the postgame show. If that gives you happiness, then your life is kind of lame.
How wrong you are.
Because understand this: the euphoria I felt tonight when that shot when through and I realized that yes, we had indeed beaten the #1 team – and more than than, #1 ranked Kentucky – had nothing to do with me. I couldn’t have cared less that I got to hop around my apartment for two hours like a fool enjoying watching some kids in white jersey score more basketball points than some kids in blue jerseys.
But I was happy as hell for some of the other people who go to.
I was happy for my brother, who has never quite been able to share my obsessive love for Indiana basketball simply because he hasn’t had the first hand experiences that I have. Now he has one that I don’t, watching this game in the student section and storming the floor when CWat’s shot went through. I talked to him tonight after the game as we was in his dorm room, about to head out to Mother Bears and then to Kirkwood. He was ecstatic. He had felt it. As he said, he now got to experience beating the #1 team his junior year in college just like I did. In subtle ways, this win will bring us closer. Think that’s crazy? Maybe. But then, you don’t know IU basketball.
I was happy for the old school fans. Guys like @ChronicHoosier and gals like @TaxMegan; folks who I know, like me, have lived and died, figuratively speaking, with this team over the past three years, and really the past decade. I talked to both on the phone tonight, and I could sense a difference type of fully satisfied joy that wins over NC State or even Butler just can’t bring. I’m happy for them, and by proxy every other longtime IU fan who bleeds Cream and Crimson and who can properly put this victory into context.
I was happy for the IU students. So happy. Like my brother, they didn’t know what Indiana basketball truly was…until tonight. Many of the old timers (relatively speaking) like me had grown a bit frustrated with the students in the weeks leading up to this game. This week, IU’s basketball-loving student body rose to the occasion. This quite from John Calipari after the game says it all:
“Indiana and this crowd made us play the way we played. It’s not like we were awful. I’m proud of my team.”
Indiana won tonight by one point. One single point. Do I think the fans who filled Assembly Hall with Hurryin’ Hoosier spirit contributed to that one point difference? You bet I do; and I’m right. And I am just so glad that these students are out there right now, as I type this, creating joyful memories with their classmates that they’ll remember forever, like I do thinking back to the night we beat Duke in the Sweet 16.
I’m happy for Tom Crean. What this man has done to bring the pride and winning back to Bloomington is monumental. Monumental. He was the perfect man for the job when we took it, and he is proving to be the perfect man for the job now that we’ve grown from a team of two walkons three years ago to a team that is undefeated and will be back in the top 25 next week. I could write a whole article on Tom Crean. He is the leader of this movement. Most people just didn’t expect things to move quite so much this year.
And just watch Crean’s face after Watford’s shot goes in. It’s like he wanted this win so badly that when it came true he had no clue how to react.
Update: Reading Dana O’Neil’s article about the IU victory, I came across this quote, which shows that Tom Crean and I share exactly the same feeling right now:
“This is one of the most shared moments, maybe the most shared moment I’ve ever been a part of,” Crean said. “You want to share it with so many people.”
Yes indeed Coach.
And last but certainly not least, I’m happy for the players. And I save them for last only because I want to highlight them the most.
I’m happy for Christian Watford, for emerging as a mature, tough, physical leader who takes and makes big shots when his team needs them.
I’m happy for Verdell Jones, who induced a number of “Damnit Verdells” tonight, but who ultimately ended the game on the highest of highs by unselfishly dishing the final assist on one of the greatest single shots in Hoosier history.
I’m happy for Tom Pritchard, who started as a freshman and now is just a role player. But damn if he doesn’t fill his role well. He scraps, he claws, and he helps to lead this team with toughness, attitude, and maturity.
I’m happy for Jordan Hulls, who has been doubted his whole life because he’s too small and too slow, but who stepped up in key moments tonight to make winning plays. He made some bad decisions, yes; but he also made winning plays – clutch 3s, hustle rebounds, steals – which is why he is this team’s leader.
I’m happy for Cody Zeller, whose commitment to IU despite all of the losing set this victory, and the many that will come after it, in motion. Somehow, this guy has been better than the hype. The only thing holding him back is that his teammates don’t know how to use him.
I’m happy for Sheeladipo – Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey – who came in unheralded, but who may just end up graduating as the most influential two-man recruiting class in IU history. These guys are sophomores? They need to button up their shot selection a bit, but not if it comes at the expense of their energy and confidence. When you’re passing out plaudits for Indiana’s 9-0 start, don’t overlook these two. They are our swagger and our athleticism, and even with Zeller and the experience of Watford, Hulls, and Jones, we’re only 7-2 or 6-3 without them.
I’m happy for Daniel Moore. Do you realize Daniel Moore – Daniel Moore – played key minutes in a victory over Kentucky? He did. And he didn’t look out of place doing it. He was solid. Like Tom Pritchard, he leads this team with energy and attitude, and that’s why he is not out of place being in the rotation for a 9-0 team about to be ranked for the first time since 2008.
I’m happy for Maurice Creek. Of course I’m devastated that he couldn’t play in this game, and I’d give him my knees if I could (seriously), but I’m glad that he got to experience this win as a team leader. Included in that one point difference, to some degree, is the character and toughness of Mo Creek that his teammates have absorbed by osmosis. You won’t convince me otherwise.
I’m happy for Derek Elston. He didn’t play tonight, but he’s seen the tough times. And I’m sure he’ll enjoy the good times like tonight.
Update: And of course I’m happy for Matt Roth! How could I forget Matt Roth? Goodness gracious, if any IU player ever reminds of myself as a high school basketball player, it’s Roth. He’s a testament to humbly fulfilling a supporting role and doing it spectacularly despite injury and adversity.
And yes, even though Remy Abell and Austin Etherington are new, and have only experienced winning as Hoosiers, I’m happy for them too. They are part of the “new IU” that is going to be used to winning and success, and that’s terrific.
And I’m happy for Yogi Ferrell, and Jeremy Hollowell, and Ron Patterson, and Hanner Perea-Moquera, and Peter Jurkin, because now #themovement doesn’t have the pressure of rebuilding IU basketball. That happened the last three years (perhaps more than we realized) and is taking a giant leap this year. Now #themovement is just about taking it to the next level. What will that level be? Who knows. This year’s team obviously has a much higher ceiling than anyone thought.
I’m also happy for Don Fischer and Chuck Crabb and Tim Garl, and everyone else who has been around for the ups and downs, and who tonight is basking in the glow of a major up.
This was a signature win in the history of Indiana basketball. That’s not hyperbole to say. In the grand scheme of the 2011-12 season, it doesn’t mean much more than a great resume builder for the NCAA Tournament…but for those who consider themselves a part of this program, even if only very peripherally, as I do, it’s easy to understand why this win is so much more than that.
This win was just…joyful. It was wonderful.
And like I said at the beginning of this post, it just made me feel happy…for all of the reasons that I enumerated above. For my brother, for the fans, for Coach Crean, for the players…99.9% of the joy I feel right now is because I know what they’re feeling. And that makes me happy. And that is why I still bother with sports. For these moments.
As for that .1% that I didn’t account for above…I’ll admit, that’s for me. In that moment right after Christian Watford’s three went through, I spent 5-10 seconds jumping around my apartment, scaring the shit out of my dog, and high fiving my wall. This happened. Video of it would surely be hilarious, ridiculous, and perhaps even somewhat pathetic. But in those 5-10 seconds, I was immersed in pure personal joy because my team won.
My team won. Our team won.
What a night to be a Hoosier.
Coach Crean, the players, and the fans who willed us on all night long: thank you…though not for me, as I have other memories like this. Thank you for giving my brother, yourselves, and new IU fans a memory like this so now we can all relate. We all have one. We all know what Indiana basketball feels like.
Is Indiana basketball is back? Not yet. Not totally.
Indiana basketball will be “back” when Big Ten titles are the standard and competing for national championships is the expectation. We took one giant leap closer to that tonight, but we still have a ways to go.
But in terms of energy, spirit, and that unbridled Cream and Crimson hysteria…yes, Indiana basketball is definitely back. This is what tonight signified.
This is why I’m a sports fan.
Join me after IU basketball game on The Assembly Call. For now, relive tonight’s: http://assemblycall.com.
Also, please forgive any typos. Cloud 9 doesn’t have spellcheck.