As you may have heard, Northwestern won a historic and dramatic basketball game last night. In response, there were a lot of really good columns written. Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell, Inside NU’s Zach Pereles, Ian McCafferty and Josh Burton (not published yet), and Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel all wrote really good pieces about “Taphorn to Pardon”.
I combined all of them into one article.
On the night that it happened, the hero is “undersized”. Sports fandom makes absolutely no sense, and it sailed through the air in a momentarily quiet Welsh-Ryan Arena. After the chaos, after the purple crush– our hearts stabbed, broken, and ripped out- his Northwestern had surely clinched a spot in its first ever NCAA tournament. Tears wanted to flow, but Chris Collins, who gives up inches to fellow Big Ten centers, wouldn’t let them.
“It was kind of surreal.”
Thirty minutes earlier, every season ends in disappointment. He had watched the greatest play in Northwestern basketball history that you could cut with a knife, and had had no idea what to do.
“I kind of felt like I was potential disaster”
And all I could think to tweet was a mild profanity.
The story of Wednesday night in Evanston, the story of The Play, the story of the moment that will end 78 years of agony and misery can be told in a lot of ways. I convinced my editors to send me. I booked a flight from San Jose to Chicago.
“I’m like ‘The rim was right there”
My dad responded with, “Do you know how many people have said that?”
It’s actually a quote, attributed to a Danish-American social reformer. Rather than going to a different play to readjust and rethink, Collins told James to stick to the initial plot.
The best way to tell it is through failure as a way of life. And a stare. And a semi-audible scream.
“Nor could he escape the throngs of students who had flooded the court, all wanting a high-five, a fist-pump, heck.” — a silly little motto that only means anything to the two dozen or so people that had to believe in it.
All the emotion came rushing in at once. The Play, in its first incarnation, hadn’t worked.
Mostly like popcorn. The Pass was just right. “It” didn’t need subtext. It didn’t need an explanation.
No other person before tonight had ever said those words.
Even Gordon Hayward, seemingly cursed to a life of ineptitude and disappointment, leaned forward. His eyes got wider. He fell into the arms of family members, devastated. The reward, to beat Duke in the 2010 NCAA Championship Game, was obviously through the roof. He had to battle some of his fellow assistants. He didn’t even make the shot.
Taphorn made an incredible throw. The emotions are a bit muddled. He cried. Just a few months ago, when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. It got harder to keep taking swings at the rock. Pardon had never practiced the play before. The Wildcats had only ever tried it once in practice. And then he ran, aimlessly, until he was corralled by Lindsey. Law and Taphorn dragged him to the ground. Northwestern had actually won the game.
Different vibe. This is about all the people that have had years of hopelessness, who suffered crushing defeats, who were in Welsh-Ryan Arena almost exactly five years ago today seeing Northwestern 73, Ohio State 75, who were journalists who died in 1914 named Jacob Riis. This is about the basketball gods, different players, Franco Harris, Bobby Thomson, Willie Mays, who mock brackets for a living. Different set of fans.
“It’s been a great journey so far,” the 42-year-old said, his voice swelling with emotion.
On Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, though, right as the clock struck 8:00 p.m., The rock had split in two. There was no other way this could happen. This is not one of those times, except I saw it with my own eyes, and suddenly, it is all worth it.