Sports Addict: My J.J. dream team may have lost, but they’ll always be champions in my book …

by dentonramsey

Sports Addict: My J.J. dream team may have lost, but they’ll always be champions in my book …

March Madness 2006

Denton Ramsey / Staff Writer

Okay, so I was wrong.

It’s not the first time in my life I haven’t been right about something.

But my Blue Devils fought their butts off last Thursday night, and against all odds – the announcers, the officials and the average fair-weather fans cheering against Duke just because they have the most incredible basketball program in the history of college hoops.

I’m also not here to give excuses as to why we lost.

Coach K has always taught his players, and me for that matter, that you take a loss as a man and go shake the opponents hand and say, “good game.”

However, Thursday night was a difficult evening for me, both as a fan of college hoops and a forever fanatic of K and company.

As an avid sports fan, and die-hard Duke fan, I have watched J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams blossom from their so-called ‘freshman flukes’ status to ‘superior senior superstar standouts’ status.

Both will thrive at the next level.

It’s not about making it to the NBA, though.

It’s about much more than that – it’s about how sports can relate to life and how you can take examples from sports and tie them into everyday matters to make you a better person.

On Thursday evening after the agonizing defeat of my Blue Devils, I spoke with my dad and my mom, both of my brothers, as well as my ‘Duke ’til Death’ lifelong friend Marco.

It was a tough defeat, and it was near impossible to hold back any emotions that had been pushed back thus far as I watched J.J. stroll off the court, standing tall but with tears rolling down his face.

And that’s when I lost it, straight up.

As I sat in disbelief staring at the screen with tears streaming down my face, that’s when my phone rang and continued to ring throughout the night with calls from friends and family to pretty much say, “good game.”

Goes to show how much sports truly does affect my life.

However, I digress…

Duke’s loss to LSU in the Sweet 16 was a bittersweet ending to a fairytale conclusion that never came to pass for the seniors about to walk the stage, and thus walk the campus of the prestigious Duke program one final time, in North Carolina’s finest, Durham.

But it’s about even more than the seniors and their final stand.

It’s about playing as a team; playing as five fingers working as one to form a fist.

It’s about leadership, responsibility, respect and passion.

And it’s about playing to the best of your ability, day-in and day-out, no matter what the circumstances.

The same rings true in life.

As coach K has always taught, it’s about turning the negatives into positives, taking defeat and learning from it, and making yourself a better person, both on and off the court.

A couple weeks ago I saw an interview with J.J. Redick and he mentioned that he has a tattoo which refers to his favorite Bible verse, Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Quite a statement for a young man with much more heart, passion and talent than your everyday NBA superstar.

And it speaks numbers to the Duke program and coach K.

Speaking of numbers, here’s a stat for those Duke-haters out there that claim the Blue Devils are overrated year-in and year-out.

Every team that Duke has fallen to in the NCAA tournament since 1998 has gone on to reach the Final Four.

Those teams?

1998 – Kentucky, ’99 – Connecticut, ’00 – Florida, ’01 – No one (K’s third title at Duke), ’02 – Indiana, ’03 – Kansas, ’04 – Connecticut, ’05 – Michigan State, ’06 – LSU.

So if Duke’s so ‘overrated,’ then how come any team that beats them come tourney time reaches the Final Four?

The answer: Duke is not overrated. They are the very best of the bests, year-in and year-out.

It’s also a fact that coach K is the greatest coach ever – any sport, any level.

But back to the business at hand, Thursday’s bittersweet ending to a dream I swore would conclude with a Duke victory on April 1.

Texas was still in the race as I wrote my column on Friday, winning with a three at the buzzer to defeat West Virginia on Thursday night.

And with Texas facing LSU last Saturday in the Elite Eight, my only hope rested in a Longhorn victory.

However, LSU advanced.

So what now?

I’m all about the underdogs; who will I be pulling for in the Final Four?

George Mason.

Yes, you read that right.

For those who have dropped off the map the past week or so, George Mason (a number 11-seed) is in the Final Four.

And the slipper must fit, because it’s not everyday an 11-seed knocks off a 1-seed.

But on Saturday, that very impossible happened as George Mason upset the hated Huskies of U Conn.

So until this weekend’s Final Four, I’m all about those guys in green looking to make a miracle a reality.

The mean green, underdog kids of George Mason who I can’t help but love.

Any team that knocks out both UNC and U Conn. has my full support.

Watch out, LSU, seems as though the real slipper may belong to the rising hoops stars of George Mason.