Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shot. Horn. Swish.

The real reason that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is our most exciting event isn't necessarily because of our pools, the upsets or the one-and-done format.

And it's not necessarily because of the close games, either. There are a wealth of those each year. This year, for example, the average margin of victory through Saturday night's games was 14.1; 10 of the 40 were decided by five points or less, while 11 were more than 20 points.

Here's the real reason: Once every few years, we get one of those great games that comes down to a final shot - a buzzer-beater. Not late, decisive shots, like Eric Maynor's jumper with 1.8 seconds left that lifted VCU over Duke. Impressive in its own right, but it still falls short.

True, honest-to-God buzzer beaters in which the opponent can only watch and hope.

The epitome of this was the 1992 Duke-Kentucky classic that ended on Christian Laettner's game-winning turnaround jumper. It lives on in our memory and, of course, on YouTube.

(It's barely visible in the clip, but the game was played at the old Spectrum in Philly. One thing that always differentiated the Spectrum was its horn. You can hear it clearly after Laettner releases his shot - it sounds like one of the Quik Call I tones you hear on a scanner. Not really relevant, but something I always found peculiar.)

There's something magical in the split-second between release and result - especially if that result changes the score. And it's something that's not duplicated in any other sport.

Certainly, we remember Michael Jordan's fading game-winner over the Cavaliers in 1989. But in the time that's passed, the moment has become a tribute to Jordan's greatness - not a tribute to the interminable NBA playoffs.

Adam Vinatieri kicked the Patriots into history with his last-second field goal that beat St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI. But that moment signifies nothing about why Super Bowl Sunday has become a holiday in America; it's remembered for Vinatieri's nerves - he's the best clutch kicker in football - and for the start of the Patriots' dynasty.

Walk-off home runs in baseball are comparable, but usually it's just the end of another regular-season game. Such theatrics are nearly impossible in hockey and racing.

But we remember the buzzer-beaters. Tyus Edney's full-court drive for UCLA. Bryce Drew's three-pointer for Valpo.

Shot. Horn. Swish.

That's what makes March so mad.

5 comments:

ME said...

T
A
T
E

G
E
O
R
G
E
!
!
!

Rip Hamilton too, against Washington, 1998. Remember that one?

Brian said...

I like my happy home. Therefore I decline comment on Rip.

ME said...

Boy, I can't wait to get a scanner. :)

Balarko said...

Go ducks!!!

ME said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t3rg_AptzM&NR