Indiana beats Kentucky…and I remember why I bother with sports in the first place

Happiness.

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.

Happiness.

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.



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

Comments

  1. Sally Armstrong says:

    As a 1975 IU graduate and devoted fan, following this team the last four years has been a lesson in resolve, spirit and hope. Last night, all of those lessons brought forth a great victory, a great memory and confirmation of the great spirit of the Indiana Hoosiers and Coach Crean and all of their devoted fans at IU and across the country. Thanks for a great article – you nailed those feelings that we have experienced the last four years, and last night. I have watched the videos over and over with a smile on my face and gratitude that this team's hard work and spirit is now being understood by more than just us devoted Hoosier fans!

    • Thank you for visiting commenting Sally, and for the kind words about the article. What is amazing me as I read different perspectives, talk to my friends, talk to my brother, is how a win like this pulls everyone in the fan base together with, as Coach Crean said, a "shared experience." It's so wonderful that a '75 grad, and '04 grad, and the kids in school now will all have this game to unite them as Hoosiers. We needed something like this. And we got it. Just awesome.

  2. I followed the Hoosiers before I entered IU in 1955 and have lived and died with them ever since. My wife and I started attending games in the old field house. She can't climb the stairs to the cheap seats anymore, so we have to be satisfied with TV, but Jerod, you expressed our feelings exactly [except we cheered from the sofa instead of jumping around the apartment like you did]. I suspect there is some sort of psychological malady that afflicts folks like you and us, but if so, I hope we never get cured.

    • Thank you John. I appreciate the kind words. And yes, there is definitely a psychological malady that afflicts us all! And there have been some times over the last three years when I've wonder just why I indulge it like I do. Then last night happened. Now I remember. Go IU!

  3. I'm so glad I'm not the only IU Alum who was jumping up and down inside my apartment. Since I live walking distance from the Ohio State University campus, I wonder if I should go down and introduce myself to my downstairs neighbor and then apologize for all the craze pacing and pounding they must have heard through their ceiling last night!

    They're saying this team has the best start since the 1989-1990 Indiana Hoosiers. That would have been my Junior year when I was in the IU Pep Band and was fortunate enough to watch every game of the season. I love Hoosier basketball and will be glad to go to work on Monday in the sea of Big Ten (and one Kentucky) fans and be the one smiling!

  4. Is there a way to communicate to the team and staff how a win like this enhances the lives of "The Hoosier Nation?" The feeling of well being carries over into our everyday lives. It make the sick feel better; it encourages the jobless; it gives hope to those that feel hopeless; it instills a sense of pride into everyone. God bless Tom Crean and the team for this early Christmas present to all of us. We are anxiously awaiting the rest of the season.

    • You know, I think on a night like last night is when they realize it. I think Crean has shown a keen understanding of that all along, from the first day when he said "It's Indiana" to last night when the first thing he mentioned in his presser was how it was a "shared moment". And these players, who haven't really experienced something like that, got a taste of it, and surely are being told things like what you commented here as they bask in the afterglow today.

  5. I and two friends live in Buenos Aires….but we are and have been die hard Hoosier faithful for over 40 years…..We watched the game at a local sports bar, and were wild men when the final 3 pointer hit nothing but NET…. We jumped up and down as if we were at the game….The Portenos, as they call the local Argentines living in Buenos Aires, thought we were all three certifiable…….Than all of us became calm…and I teared up as did my two friends….It was just such an emotional time for us all…..No one can understand the being… which is part of the Hoosier Faithful understanding…You accept your beloved Hoosiers in the worst and in the best of situations…….IU basketball is on the road to recovery, thanks to Coach Crean, his assistants, and the fans…How sweet it is to see IU win such a game….How sweet it is to see this happen against Kentucky….Jerod…your article is fantastic commentary…keep it up…and now your brother is part of the "Hoosier Faithful"….indeed.
    HOO HOO HOOSIERS

    • Thank you Michael! You said it best: "It was just such an emotional time for us all…..No one can understand the being… which is part of the Hoosier Faithful understanding." There are certain fan bases in sports that are about so much more than wins and losses. IU basketball is like that. The nation got to see it last night.

  6. I'm tired of teams like Duke, North carolina , and Kentucky winning championships by giving out the best scholarships. I swam IUPU large pool when I lived in Indy twice.

  7. HoosierHead says:

    I am an IU alumni, class of 1987, and grew up in Bloomington. It is an 'industry' town and all of my family owed their livilihoods and/or diplomas to it. I read people's memories of 2002 but I cannot remember those moments as clearly, as I remember my first IU basketball games during the 1974-75 season. My parents had season tickets and they alternated taking me and my brother so I went to quite a few games and the Hoosiers NEVER LOST. It was so devastating in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, when we lost to KENTUCKY. I was a child with no preparation for defeat on the court and I took it hard along with the whole town. At school the devestation was palpable. Many kids parents worked for IU. After one complete regular season undefeated, the Hoosiers repeated this feat in 1975-76. They were 'America's' team during the bicentenial… unstoppable, save for one close game with Michigan, which IU won. The NCAA championship game was not even close… IU beat Michigan handily. IU won it all again, when I was in High School in 1981, but it was a really weird day, with Reagan getting shot. To seal a lifetime commitment to the Hoosiers, they won during my Senoir year at old IU. I was so saddened with the handling of Bobby Knight over the years many times, and whatever you think of him, the recent disgraces to the program would not have happened under his tenure. Wow, I' just sat here and wept to see IU kids and the Bloomington communtiy leaping with such joy… I know how far those cheers echoed… 'the glory of old IU." I'm weeping now.

    • Thank you for visiting and sharing this story. I love reading these stories of people for whom, like me, Indiana basketball has been part of the fabric of their lives. It's such a special program, and that's why nights like Saturday night are so special, because it brings everyone together.

  8. Great post. Losses like this one are good for the state of Kentucky. Makes everyone calm down and ease up on all the cheap talk like we may go undefeated, final four this, championship that. The Indiana loss was very humbling. Great win by the Hoosiers. ESPN analysts had said earlier in the week that Indiana could beat Kentucky. UK fans took offense. Even though I hadn't seen IU play this season, I knew that they must match up well with Kentucky for them to make such a prediction.

  9. As a '71 IU alum, though a good bit older than you Jerod, I wholeheartedly endorse and relate to your feelings and observations. In my living room in Houston, with my "uninitiated" wife along side, I moaned as Victor's spin move resulted in the turn over, thinking that might be it. Thankfully this new band of players got another chance and, when the subsequent UK free throws produced but one point, I mused "OK, let's go, we're not finished yet." So the scene in my abode in Houston, as the shot was released and swished, found me leaping to my feet shouting "We Win!!!" with our dog running for cover and my wife urging me to hold it down – "Not possible" I asserted, "We Won, We beat Kentucky. The Hoosiers are back!" You recall memories of earlier triumphs and the feelings engendered by them. This one, coming back off the floor from the devastating Sampson scandals, brought recall of the feelings I had in November, 1975…..After May's broken arm led to the UK regional final loss and eventually to Mr. Wooden's last championship, the trip I made to St. Louis to attend the IU – UCLA matchup to start the '75-76 season was (and remains) one of the most satisfying and treasured IU basketball memories – I yelled so long and loudly at that game that come Monday morning I had no voice. But the great games and great, proud memories over the years are still there. And MAN, am I looking forward to coming games and coming years as this program, under a good and committed coach, regains its rightful place among the nation's top teams.

    • Thanks for sharing Doug! Sounds like our dogs have similar reactions when we go crazy during IU games. And thanks too for the anecdote about the 70s Hoosiers. I came of age in the late 80s, so I missed the true Knight glory years of the mid-70s. I wish I could have seen those games just like I saw Saturday's, but I also enjoy hearing/reading people like you recall them like they were yesterday with such pride and excitement. That is Indiana.

  10. Allan Hoffer says:

    Jerod, you go it just right. As a '79 alum, I even went tohigh school in Bloomington, so went to every home game in Assembly Hall with my dad until 1984 when I was in law school in Indy and couldn't make games anymore. It was crazy back then, with the sense of invincibility in that we (damn near) never lost a home game. Then came dark days following the unmentionable Coach Sampson. My nephew attends UNC in Chapel Hill and was crowing to back in 2010 about how UNC would be winning another title by 2012. He reminded me that I had told him that Tom Crean was getting us in shape and that by 2012 IU would be a factor in the national picture. I had forgotten the conversation, but my nephew is thinking both of our predictions are looking pretty good about now. The old saying is that nature abhors a vacuum. IU's basketball nature is to be a winner. Crean and the Hoosiers are filling the void.

    • Thanks Allan! And yes, both of your predictions are looking quite good. I expected progress this year, even significant progress, but this team has far exceeded my expectations through 9 games. I can't wait to see where they end up. And who knows…maybe you and your nephew will get to talk a little trash together before a Sweet 16 meeting…

  11. Thanks. It was definitely a great win, and I appreciate that Coach Cal was classy and gracious in defeat after the game.

  12. Thanks for a place to share the joy!! I live in the Chicago area and Hoosier fans are too few and too far between! To the list of games that will never be fortgotten – IU over North Carolina in 1984. WHO cares who won the NCAA – we BEAT NC!!!!! Good old Dan!

  13. thedrtwitch says:

    I think Tom Crean just invented the "Crean Face" at the end of this game.
    A perfect combination of "I expected a win indignance" and "I hate Kentucky" all rolled into one. Awesome…and I'm a Purdue fan.

  14. Wow! It was uncomprehensible for me to image how much this win vs Kentucky would mean to so many people until I viewed this post and comments. I have been a devoted Indiana fan since their 81 championship.
    When I was in the Navy back in 1987, I was the only fan in a room of U NLV fans, when Indiana beat them in the semifinals before taking on Syracuse What a rush!. Finally, they are back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go IU!

    • Thanks for commenting Allen. It was truly a memorable night, and yes, I too am actually a bit surprised how much it meant to so many IU fans everywhere. I knew going in that a win would be huge, but I didn't not anticipate just how elated it would make me, and how so many other IU fans would share the feeling.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] articles today from Bob Kravitz at the Indianapolis Star, Terry Hutchens at the Indianapolis Star, Jerod Morris with Midwest Sports Fan, Justin Albers with Inside Indiana, Jeff Goodman with CBSSports, and so on, I got tears in my eyes. [...]

  2. [...] there really aren’t many IU fans in this area (Cincinnati), but this was indeed a ‘shared joy‘  — three of us nearly brought down the entire house with our unbridled and ecstatic [...]

  3. [...] basketball and off to a 9-0 start. No moment was more electrifying than Christian Watford’s game-winning three pointer at Assembly Hall over the weekend. As Playboy model Megan Dills will tell you, however, it was not [...]

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