Even if the most scintillating NCAA tournament ever ends tonight with a story book Butler championship, we will awake groggy-eyed tomorrow morning with that empty feeling. Another college hoops season will have come and gone.
“There’s the NBA playoffs,” I’ve told several pals, who are already suffering withdrawal symptoms.
It’s ball for sure, but the pro game is not the same for Kentuckianians, is it?
I’m struck by a photo by Bob Rosato on page 34 of the March 29 print edition of Sports Ilustrated. The moment captured is obviously late in one of UK’s early round blow outs of Wake Forest or East Tennessee State. The Wildcat stars are on the sidelines, joyously cheering a big play by a sub, relishing the sweet taste of icing topping a delectable early round W.
There is DeMarcus Cousins, off his feet, mouth agape with pleasure. DeAndre Liggins is wearing a smile a time zone wide. So too Perry Stevenson and Eric Bledsoe, and they are both also a foot or two off the floor, jumping in glee. John Wall is also ecstatic, his arms raised in a familiar angle made famous on youtube.
What I wonder is this? Will any of these skilled ballers ever be as carefree and happy again on the hardwood?
For some there will be all the bling and b-ballin’ babes they desire. Perhaps even a net to cut down some June evening. For some, a term in Turkey or Italy or Germany, heralded perhaps, but under the American radar for sure. For others a stint at a Boys Club. “Mr. Stevenson, you played for the ‘Cats? For real?”
There’s a feeling about that an era has ended — a golden age, some say — and the future shall be different.
Freedom Hall is no longer the Home of the Louisville Cardinals. Continuity is no longer the norm for Kentucky. It seems certain that post-season expansion is inevitable. Which means St. Mary’s and Cornell will have to win a couple games before they get a crack at Villanova and Wisconsin.
We’ll be singing, “Where have you gone, Ali Farokhmanesh, a nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you?”
But that’s tomorrow.
Tonight we cheer for Gordon Hayward, whom, as sure as I’m sitting here, we’d hate if he were wearing Duke blue instead of Butler blue. But he’s not. And for Shelvin Mack, who slipped out of Lexington, but, unlike Jeff Mullins, matriculated at a school we’ve embraced. And for straight arrow Brad Stevens, who some day may be the next Coach K, but for now is fresh and innocent and invigorating.
It’s a Blue Monday. A Butler Blue Monday. A Duke Blue Monday.
I’ll let Fats take us out of here.
– Seedy K