Ole Miss fans hope for long dance with Rebel seniors
Legendary boxer and heavweight champion Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” By those standards—as well as by any other—Ole Miss seniors Jarvis Summers, M.J. Rhett, Aaron Jones, Terence Smith, and LaDarius White are Rebel champions. The five have worked hard to help the Ole Miss team fight through all obstacles to reach the “Big Dance” known as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Tonight the five seniors and their Rebel teammates will take on Brigham Young University in a play-in game of the NCAA tournament. It was touch and go whether or not No. 11 seed Ole Miss (20-12, 11-7, SEC) would make its way into March Madness after having suffered a few stumbles late in the season, but now that the Rebels are in, they hope to dance for quite a while.
Perhaps nothing in all of sports embodies the old phrase “the thrill of victory; the agony of defeat” quite like this singular tournament. Yes, March Madness pulls us in. Before we know what hit us, we are sneaking a peak at the WatchESPN app from our desk at work to catch the live action (or refreshing the scores on ESPN.com to see if our bracket has been busted).
We see shots swish through the basket at the buzzer like a dagger, crushing one team while simultaneously catapulting another on in to the joy of the next round. We see young men stand at the free-throw line with little-to-no time remaining on the clock, as the fate of their team, coaches, and fans lies in their solitary hands.
The sheer madness of the March tournament often boils down to the simple fact that games are frequently decided in the waning seconds. Destiny is determined in the blink of an eye. Just when a team thinks it has punched its ticket to the next round, it can find itself called for a crazy, last-second foul that sends the opponent to the free-throw line for three shots with under a second remaining in a two-point game.
But what ultimately makes the game so gut-wrenching is the thought that it might possibly be the last time we ever see our seniors suited up for our team.
One minute, Jarvis Summers is being fouled as he hits a last-second three-pointer from the corner of the court that appears to win the game. The next, he and his team are ushered home on the backs of a crazy foul called with less than a second to go.
Yes, how many times have we watched the conclusion of an NCAA tournament game only to see the biggest heartbreak of all come when the players on the losing team look at one another with the sudden realization that it is the last time they will ever play together as a team?
For most seniors in the tournament, it will indeed be the final time they competitively play the game they love—the game they’ve probably spent the majority of their lives playing in gyms all across our nation. Few will be fortunate enough to continue on to the professional ranks.
For many of them, the final buzzer ushers in the end of what has been an incredibly large part of their lives–and ours.
So as we cheer on Jarvis, Snoop, M.J., Aaron, Terence and the rest of our Rebels tonight against BYU, we hope for a win because no one ever wants to lose.
But we also hope for a win because no one ever wants to say, “goodbye.”
Hotty Toddy and BEAT BYU!!!
(Featured image courtesy of Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)