Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 8, 1998
Our Town: Childhood dreams do come true
A day after Stanford's one-point loss to Kentucky in the Final Four semifinal, a college roommate called to console me. We had twice experienced our team coming so close to college basketball's national title during our time at the University of Michigan but not quite getting there, when Michigan's Fab Five lost in the final game in 1992 and 1993. "I'm not that upset," I told him, "This time it was different."
Perhaps it was because I thought Stanford wouldn't have a chance against mighty Kentucky, or that just getting to the Final Four was an amazing accomplishment. Whatever the reason, I came away from the loss calm, proud and with great hope. The hope you have as a youth.
I can clearly recall myself at age 16 asking my mom, "Can we go to the Final Four when Stanford makes it?" This was just days before Stanford's first NCAA tournament appearance in 47 years. I asked the question with the hope and ingorance of youth.
She gave me a smile and said, "We'll think about it, if they make it," knowing full well there was no chance.
I didn't see that awful game when Stanford was knocked out of the NCAA's by little Siena, but I remember the feeling of shock and disbelief. My dream had been shattered. My hope gone. Since that time I have become a realist, a doubter. Believing that as good as Stanford got, it could never get to the big time.
Two years later I went off to college--a college with a big-time program that had risen to the peak of college basketball the same year Stanford fell so hard from the tournament. Yes, Michigan was the place to be for big-time sports, I thought.
My first year there the basketball team stunk, but the next year a group of five top recruits came to town and went all the way to the finals. Among the Fab Five were current NBA players Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose. When they lost the final game to Duke, I was crushed.
The next year the team got to the final again, but again lost. This time North Carolina was the victor. Webber's infamous timeout call--in which he wasted a precious second by trying to call a timeout when the team had none left--ended all Michigan's hopes. Soon after Webber, the star, left for the NBA. A year later Howard and Rose left, and with them the team's talent and soul.
The soul of this year's Stanford team has remained, even with the loss of one of the school's greatest talents--Brevin Knight. Instead of going downhill, the team has gone to greater heights.
The core of the Cardinal team is made up of players in their third year, at the most. And none of the juniors is talking about jumping to the pros.
Thus, there is great hope for me, and other Stanford faithful, even with the loss.
Before the game I had little hope. My hope was that the Cardinal would not be embarrassed. Counted out by the media, the fans, and even me, Stanford came out, instead, with the best effort of the year. Stanford led for three-quarters of the game and came back several times when it appeared Kentucky was going to put the game away.
Coach Mike Montgomery put it well after the game when he said believes Stanford could have won the game if there had been six or seven seconds left on the clock, instead of two, when Stanford got the ball back.
What I will remember from this year is not coming painfully close to beating Kentucky, not even the amazing comeback against Rhode Island in the Elite Eight, but the feelings the team brought back to me.
They have made me a believer again. Even as Peter Sauer launched his futile, three-quarter court shot at the end of the game, I still thought it would go in. This is the hope that I had as a youngster, the belief in destiny sports fans get this time of year.
And even after the loss, Stanford's players handled themselves with dignity and class. This time, however, the things that make the Stanford team special weren't shared only by the 7,500 faithful at Maples, not just those viewers on the West Coast, but the entire nation.
But the best feeling, for me, was shared by only one other person. The one who was with me with so many other great moments in Stanford sports history--my mom.
Charlie Breitrose is a staff writer at the Weekly.
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