As the great scholar Eminem once said, “And its no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer”. Last night’s game wasn’t the Hollywood ending we hoped for. Purdue had the narrative on its side and if there’s one thing that watching plenty of sports movies has taught me it’s that the narrative always wins. How else do you explain the scrappy kids from District 5 overcoming their shortcomings of...checks memories of Mighty Ducks...poverty and redistricting (?) to win the championship against the Hawks? The Ducks had the better narrative. I mean, a lawyer with a drunk driving charge forced to become a pee-wee hockey coach and go up against the man who caused him such trouble as a kid? What are the odds?!?! Probably even lower when you consider that the last time the Hawks lost was when said lawyer with a drinking issue was on that very team. Uncanny.
And what about the Chicago Cubs plucking a young fan out of obscurity after he broke his arm and the tendons healed super tight? Sure he’s just a kid but that doesn’t mean that he can’t come in and lead the Cubs to the World Series.
Or what about Air Bud? I mean ain’t no rule says a dog CAN’T play basketball? Right?
I thought Purdue had it last night. I thought the narrative would carry them. The team that lost 4 seniors yet came back stronger, the team that suffered heartbreak on three occasions in the past to kick them out of the tournament, the team that lost a superfan to cancer, the team that had their long time radio announcer suffering through a terrible cancer of his own, the team that had the old coach who failed to reach the Final Four coming back around the team more and more to see his protege reach the heights that he never could. The team that at one point looked unlikely to make the tournament yet turned it around following a loss to instate rival Notre Dame. All of this had to mean something. All of this had to be building toward that great breakthrough, that great moment of relief when things finally came together for Purdue and their fans.
Alas, it was not to be. Instead we sit and watch as Texas Tech and Auburn travel to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Maybe this season wasn’t our Mighty Ducks, or Air Bud, Rookie of the Year, or even Major League. Maybe it’s our Rocky or Little Big League. Maybe this is the year we get tantalizingly close only to break through in the future. In Rocky II (spoiler) Rocky is triumphant and becomes the Heavyweight champion and is able to fulfill his fantasy of owning a robot and fighting Hulk Hogan erm I mean Thunderlips. Maybe next year Matt Painter and the team reach the Final Four with Larry Clisby and Gene Keady enjoying it together. Maybe next year this team takes that next step. Maybe this all means nothing and we simply need to embrace the chaos. Either way when the 2019-2020 season rolls around I’m gonna be watching. Watching and remembering this heartbreak I feel right now and remembering that this story isn’t over. Not by a long shot.