Rooting for them, despite loss

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, April 9, 2008

By Staff
The heartbreak feels familiar, but this time it's not for me. I watched the Memphis Tigers give away the national championship Monday night, well aware that nearly every team I follow - the Browns, the Indians, the Cavaliers, the Tigers themselves back in 1985 - just can't seem to pull off a win when it counts.
Maybe it's me. I wasn't even an Alabama fan until the year after the Tide won its last national title.
But this time I wasn't rooting for Memphis because I wanted to see a team I support win - I wanted them to win because the players deserved it. The Tigers - whose team record of 38-2 for the year gives them the most wins of any NCAA men's basketball team ever - have been unfairly criticized as thugs and bad boys. Their coach's reputation as a rule-bender, their own tattoos and difficult backgrounds made them a target.
Never mind that most of these young men are decorated with ink that spells out their mamas' names and favorite Bible verses or philosophers' quotes. Never mind that one of them - who was the first in his family to graduate from high school - is just five credits shy of a college degree.
Because several come from single-parent homes in poor neighborhoods, they had a lot to overcome, not the least of which are the stereotypes. I thought about their absent fathers a lot Monday night, as I pictured my own dad at home watching them, willing them to win.
My father and I tend to share our sports allegiances. Of all three children, I'm the one who most wants to watch a game with him or talk about players and team records. He inspired my appreciation for those teams that break our hearts just when winning it all seems so close.
Because in the end, the trophy or the title doesn't matter. It's that magical journey a dream team can take - the one we take with them, vicariously.
Monday night's loss is so small in the grand scheme of things, no matter how much importance a fan or a school or a city tries to attach to it.
These young Memphis players have great potential - at least two or three are likely to have NBA careers, and of course they still have mothers and siblings and lifelong fans who will support them.
And as I watched the Memphis boys hang their heads Monday night, I wanted to tell them - there's a dad out there, better than any I can imagine, who is still rooting for you.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at

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