by Jeff Yerger
NOTE: I wrote this yesterday, April 5, 2016, hence the time frame here.
It’s been nearly 24 hours since Villanova’s historic NCAA Championship win over the University of North Carolina, and I’m still giddy with the emotions from last night. My calves hurt from jumping uncontrollably after Kris Jenkins nailed the game-winning three. I think I have a bump in my head from jumping into a TV. My legs ache from walking/jumping/skipping a Lancaster Avenue jam-packed with ecstatic fans like me from Gullifty’s Bar in Bryn Mawr to Villanova’s main campus. My face hurts from smiling like an idiot during the whole celebration up until I went to bed. And I’ve never felt better.
77-74, Villanova wins… is this real life? Did any of this actually happen? Did Jenkins really make that three, or is it still in the air? Was that actually Charles Barkley bouncing up and down like a school girl? To Villanova alumni and/or fans like me across the globe, this has been fairy tale material. Villanova’s not supposed to win these kinds of games. Only Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and UNC are allowed to win championships, right? Not some Catholic school outside of Philadelphia. Four years ago, Villanova was written off. Today, a group of scrappy kids who grew up in the greater Philadelphia area have transcended into college basketball legends. Kris Jenkins has become a folk hero. Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu blossomed into superstars before our eyes in four years. These are our guys, man. They did it!
Yeah, I’m still at a loss for words as to how to describe this feeling (although the word “relief” and the phrase “I can now die happy” come to mind). Last night was everything I dreamed of and more, and yet, I’m not sure I could’ve pictured a more perfect moment. It was so damn perfect. This is why we love sports. We live and die by one game, one shot, one play, one moment. Games like last night’s are why we subject ourselves to years of agony and frustration, because the reward can be so damn sweet.
On a personal level, Villanova winning the national championship means the world to me, and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Villanova has always been a huge part of my life. Most of my family attended Villanova. My grandmother worked at the law school, while my grandfather was a professor in the library science department. My sister and I literally would not be here if it weren’t for Villanova, as our parents met there during their senior year. I’m so so lucky that they were able to afford to send me there when it was my time for college, and I don’t thank them enough for it. To me, this win is for them; for us.
As for the rest of us, Villanova becoming national champions is validation with a capital “V” – validation for every “Piccolo Girl” tear, every early March Madness exit, and every player who has set foot in the Pavillion. It is validation for Big 5 basketball, and the great basketball culture the city of Philadelphia has to offer. It is validation for the “Nova Nation” – for every student, parent, professor, staff, alumni, and fan. It is validation for every sleepless night studying. It is validation for every dollar spent on student loans. It is validation for taking a chance and submitting an application to attend Villanova University. Villanova’s win validates the pride we all have for this great school and its community. It’s way more than basketball.
This year’s Villanova Basketball team played with an unmatched amount of heart, courage, and sportsmanship. They always hustled, and they never faltered under pressure, winning many games and countless hearts in the process. Every player on this team played an important role in this championship, from the walk-ons to the video coordinator, because that’s what great teams do. We always knew we had a great coach in Jay Wright, who now has a new ring to add to his spectacular wardrobe. We always knew we had a great team that was capable of great things, and it’s about time we got some validation. We earned it.