April 05, 2016
Thank you, Villanova.
Thank you, not just for a National Championship, not just for putting Philadelphia back in the winner’s circle, but thank you for a reminder of just how good sports can make you feel.
Thank you for a game for a generation of sports fans. Thank you for a shining moment 31 years after Villanova’s last game for the ages. Thank you for allowing a whole new generation of local sports fans to have a moment to remember, just like the 1985 Wildcats gave an older generation a lifetime memory.
But this was better.
In fact, this was the best.
The moment – the nervous second between the time the shot left Jenkins' hand, the backboard lit to signify the end of regulation and the ball sailed through the basket – that moment was the best ever.
Villanova’s unbelievable victory over North Carolina to win the National championship game was THE best moment in sports that this typist has ever witnessed – and that encompasses a very long time.
The moment that Kris Jenkins launched that already legendary three-point shot toward a distant orange rim was a better moment than that frozen day a long time ago when the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets … better than the Phillies World Series victories … better than the Eagles playoff victories.
Maybe not the victory itself, but the moment – the nervous second between the time the shot left Jenkins' hand, the backboard lit to signify the end of regulation and the ball sailed through the basket – that moment was the best ever.
It will be a moment frozen in time that Villanova fans and Philadelphia fans will have to share with the rest of the nation. You see, this was not just a victory for Villanova; it was a victory for all of sports. It was a victory for anybody who wades through all the ordinary games, knowing that somewhere, sometime there will be a moment like this.
The somewhere was Houston. The sometime was the National Championship game. The delivery was a miracle on top of a miracle if you can imagine that.
The first occurred in the light blue colors of Carolina when Marcus Paige took a brilliant three-point shot with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game at 74, and likely set up overtime. It was a shot that erased what had appeared to be a safe 10-point lead, and it was a shot that had every chance to set up Paige as a legend who saved the game and the season for Carolina.
And then ...
And then Paige went from Front Paige news to the back page, making way for a better miracle. There was even a moment to erase the tension as Daniel Ochefu took a mop from a court attendant to make sure he would not slip.
He needed to make sure he had secure footing to set a screen so that Ryan Arcidiacono could get the ball. It was the little things that help set up what appears to be a stroke of luck. That stroke of luck is honed during those hours of practice when nobody is watching and end-of-game moments are practiced until all involved are comfortable with the drill.
What you cannot simulate is running that play just after your heart has been stopped by a miracle shot by the opposition.
And then that miracle shot was replaced by a MIRACLE shot. It was set up when Arcidiacono had the nerves of a skywalker and willed a pass to Jenkins. It was a made-for-TV moment as Jenkins called for the ball and with 0.5 seconds remaining, the ball left his hands and from there it was a literal rainbow and orchestra of emotions.
The ball left Jenkins' hands, and then the backboard perimeter lit up and the horn sounded. The shot was in its descending arc, and nobody blinked. The horn sounded. The ball was still in the air, and hearts were still stuck in throats, the light blue hearts praying for a miss, the darker blue praying for the shot of their lifetime.
It was the Philadelphians prayers that were answered. It was Villanova to the rescue for a city that needed a shot of sports adrenalin.
Thank you, Villanova.