Tuesday, April 6, 2021

It's All The SID

The NCAA women's basketball championship game Sunday night between Stanford and Arizona was a classic won by the Cardinal 54-53. You can't ask for much more than a one-point national championship game, right?

Arizona played its final defensive possession perfectly. Down one with 36 seconds to go, Arizona didn't foul, instead relying on Stanford to do what teams in that situation do about 100 percent of the time - nothing. The Cardinal settled for a shot clock violation, and suddenly Arizona had the ball and 6.1 seconds to win it.

Then Stanford did what championship teams do in those situations, smothering Arizona and forcing a desperation three as time expired. Of course it almost went in, but it was not to be for the Cinderella Wildcats, who had knocked off UConn in the semifinals.

One of the biggest stars of the women's tournament turned out to be Arizona coach Adia Barnes, who is also the school's all-time leading scorer (an amazing 2,237). She was a longtime professional player in both the WNBA, where she won a championship with the Seattle Storm, and in Europe.

It was her genuine emotion after Friday's win over UConn, and her use of her middle fingers to make a point in her team huddle, coupled with a refusal to apologize for being seen on camera while doing it (and mouthing the accompanying expletive) that made her even more popular. 

TigerBlog isn't advocating for coaches to drop f-bombs on national TV, but he realizes it does happen to the very best of them. And the way she handled the aftermath of it was impressive.

Also, how in the world did the NCAA, which had already had more than its share of self-inflicted wounds during the women's tournament, not include Arizona in the Final Four promotional video? Seriously, there are four teams. How hard is it to include all four? It was that slight that led to Barnes' use of the expletive in the first place, which makes it even more understandable

A lesser known breakout star from the tournament was Wilder Treadway. Who? Wilder. He's the women's basketball contact for the athletic communications office at Stanford. 

Okay, so maybe he's not quite a breakout star. But he is the athletic communications contact for an NCAA championship team.

And before he moved out West to work at Stanford, he was the women's basketball contact, among other sports, at of all places Penn. Before his team won a national championship, Treadway's biggest games each year were Princeton-Penn.

TigerBlog has been the athletic communications contact for teams that have won the NCAA championship. In fact, it's happened four times for him - men's lacrosse championships in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001 (he was still at the newspaper for the first two). He's been there when the women have won, but he wasn't the team's contact.

It's an interesting situation to be in when you're the championship team SID. You've been with the team the whole year. You know everything about the coaches and players. You are certainly an insider, and in your own way you are very much a part of the team.

On the other hand, unlike everyone else associated with the team that closely, in the moment when the game ends, you have to maintain some sense of normalcy, as opposed to jumping up and down and being part of the dog pile. 

You need to get TV interviews. You need to get people to postgame rooms. And of course there's also the quaint old-fashioned notion of no cheering in the press box.

At the same time, you do want to celebrate with everyone else. It's a delicate balancing act.

It's also quite fascinating to be in the locker room after a team has won an NCAA championship. It's just a different sort of feel, one of a team that bought in fully, overcome whatever obstacles there were and then rose to the highest possible level.

There's also a strange feeling in those locker rooms. It's one of not wanting to let go. There's a sense you can feel that this achievement was something that took so much time and so much effort and so much sacrifice and so much hard work and now that it's here, nobody wants to walk away from it.

At least that was an observation that TB made from his own experiences in those situations. 

As much as it would be nice to think the opposite, the SID doesn't really make a team any better or worse. Mostly you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes those right places end up in NCAA championships. Such was the case Sunday night for Wilder Treadway. 

TB has experienced that before, and it's a lot of fun to be there.

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