Being a sports fan, disappointment is inevitable. And Tuesday night’s loss to UCLA is a disappointment that Michigan basketball fans, players and coaches won’t soon forget.
UCLA had a good plan and they executed it well. The Bruins deserved to win, but the Wolverines had so many chances — eight missed shots down the stretch — plus turnovers, missed free throws and everything else.
But at this point, we don’t need to dwell anymore on what happened or what could have been. Basketball is a make-or-miss game. You have to make shots to win and UCLA, Johnny Juzang in particular, just made more.
However, that one loss shouldn’t cancel an entire season, especially not one that included 23 wins, a run to the Elite 8, and a Big Ten regular-season championship.
At the start of the season, any Michigan basketball fan would have taken a Big Ten title and a trip to the Sweet 16 gladly.
But the Wolverines surpassed even that, extending the Sweet-16 streak to four and coming within a bucket of reaching a third Final Four in the last eight years.
It’s true that this loss hurts. It’s also true that the future of Michigan basketball is very bright.
We’ll have plenty of time to look to the future and to be honest, I just didn’t have the stomach to really look back. I just don’t want to write a post of coulda, woulda, shoulda.
One thing I can do, as sappy as it might be, is simply to say thank you, Michigan basketball — the players, the coaches, everyone.
It was a hell of a season; hanging another banner and bringing us plenty of moments of pure joy.
People have different levels of fandom. Some are casual, some live and die with the team. I fall into the latter category and have for as long as I remember (about 30 years).
I wasn’t old enough to understand or remember the run in 1989, but I remember the Fab Five, Chris Webber’s timeout, losing to Arkansas, Trey Burke, Moe Wagner, and everything in between.
I’ve watched the Wolverines lose four national championship games. It’s hasn’t been easy, but I’d rather lose games in late March or April than never play in them because after U-M went over a decade without a trip to the NCAA Tournament, we know what that feels like too.
Looking back, I remember as a seven-year-old, staying up late to watch Juwan Howard and his teammates fight North Carolina for a national title.
The Wolverines came up short that night and it hurt, bad. But I’ve still been a fan for life, and that 1993 team is one of my favorites of all time.
Yet, after this year, the 2021 team is right there with them. Not because of what they achieved necessarily, although that was significant.
It hit me last night, as my nine-year-old son asked to stay up late to watch Michigan, that it was the first time he’d ever asked to do that.
My son is on the autism spectrum, and he likes to talk about dates and times. He asked if Michigan was going to play in April since I told him they might.
“No,” I said. “They won’t get to play in April. We’ll get to watch them again in November.”
You see, he wanted to know when we’d get to watch Michigan basketball again. He really fell in love with this team and for someone who didn’t love watching basketball a ton before, I’d say he watched nearly every minute of this season with me.
It’s a reminder of the bigger picture and why we are really all fans in the first place. We love our teams but we also love sharing that experience. It’s why we pass down loving this team or that to our sons and daughters, just like it was handed down to us.
I grew up watching Michigan games with my grandparents and parents, as I’m sure many of you did and now, this season more than ever, it’s come full circle.
My boy watched the Wolverines before, but this team finally got him — hook, line, and sinker.
So when he asked, “Is Michigan going to play next April?” I had to laugh. “I hope so.”
“They will,” He responded with the utmost certainty of a true die-hard, even if most won’t match his optimism.
Now, like a true fan, he can’t wait till they hit the floor again, so thank you, Michigan basketball.
Thank you for all the memories, thank you for the championship, and most of all, thanks for making my son bleed maize and blue.