The Press Box: The GOAT

Bryant Drayton, photo by Brooke Marsh

The ball was inbounded with TBS commentator Jim Nance telling the actions of the waning moments of the NCAA basketball national championship, with palpable anticipation in his voice.

Villanova University defeated University of North Carolina by a final of 77-74 this past Monday evening to win its first NCAA Championship in 30 years.

However, to reduce the beautiful display of athletic competition that we were all treated to on the night of April 4 to only schools and a score seems an insult to its purity.

What we saw that night was sports at its finest — a centennial moment, frozen in time, immortalized.

UNC guard Marcus Paige punctuated a furious TarHeel comeback from 10 points down with a ridiculous double-clutch three pointer to tie the game, but 4.7 seconds remained on the clock for the Wildcats to work with.

Looking on as the game grew tenser with every second, I told my buddy from UNC, “You will tell your grandkids about that shot if you guys hold on.”

In retrospect, that comment probably made the ordeal even worse for her. Everyone will tell their grandkids about what happened next, unless of course, you go to UNC.

“Villanova is trying to go the length of the floor with Arcidiacono,” Nantz said. “Three seconds at mid-court.”

“Watch out for Jenkins,” screamed fellow commentator Grant Hill.

Nova senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled into two UNC defenders, clearing space for his trailing teammate and knock-down shooter Kris Jenkins.

The TarHeels Kennedy Meeks tried to pick up his man just beyond the three point line at the top of the key, but bumped into a teammate and was late in contesting the shot.

“He gives it to Jenkins. For the Championship.”

Butter.

“One-two step, shoot ’em up, sleep in the streets,” Jenkins said in the post-game press conference.

For the first time since Jim Valvano and North Carolina State University’s legendary ‘survive and advance’ run in 1983, college basketball’s national champion was decided in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Hyperbole is a natural reaction to a moment like Kris Jenkins game-winner and after the game, many pundits threw around an acronym that has become commonplace in the sports world:

GOAT, or for the old-timers out there, “Greatest of All Time.”

When Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave hit the backboard and kissed the front rim in 2010, his Butler Bulldogs fell just short of defeating the Duke Blue Devils and capping off a historic Cinderella run.

Afterwards, a similar conversation permeated the sports world about what could have been.

Unless you’re a member of the Cameron Crazies, we all wanted that shot to go in. We all wanted the bank to be open that day because of the implications.

An objective observer always hopes for greatness, with no mind for the ecstasy and agony experienced by the participants.

We all yearn for great moments that leave us with stories to tell. For us mortals, Kris Jenkins and Gordon Hayward are more idealistic representations than tangible memories.

They are fleeting images we will recall to later generations, much more for our own sake than our listeners.

My dad never shuts up about watching John Elway’s “The Drive,” or Michael Johnson’s 1996 Olympic performance. These moments mean more to him than any current sporting event ever could.

But I listen; I smile and nod appreciatively time and time again, because I understand.

Moments that define one’s generation become synonymous with one’s identity. We cling to these experiences; we absorb them, until they become a part of us.

The greatest of all time? No, let’s not go there. In doing so, we step on the toes of past generations.

When we’re in our later years, we won’t want to hear about another age’s sports heroes or moments. We will bask in the glorious memories of our own, with a polite arrogance towards any argument against its absolute immortality.

When those moments live on, it feels like a small part of us does the same. Kris Jenkins’ shot will stand the test of time and continue on well past our own lifetime duration, comforting in a sense, as if one can steal a seat on the same train.

So we’ll tell our grandkids. They will smile and nod, not truly understanding the magnitude of our obsession, and that’s OK, so long as they don’t try and diminish it.

Well, all of us except our UNC friends. But they can deal; they’ll probably be back to the Final Four before most of us graduate.

Zach Joachim, Contributing Writer

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