Winners & losers when the tears are done

Published 11:42 am Monday, April 11, 2016

Sitting here casting an occasional eye towards the Masters Golf Championship playing on the TV and admiring the azaleas and dogwoods displayed with such vividness, I must admit:

Give me my golf and baseball because I am soooo ready for spring.

Yes, it’s been a tough winter of dashed hopes and expectations sports-wise.

In the bitter chill of February I watched the Panthers lose the Super Bowl; then disappointment continued into the college basketball season: first, in hoping the Chowan men AND women were NCAA post-season material (one danced, the other one didn’t); and finally, that the UNC Tar Heels were a portion of that same equation.

Then came Monday night where I saw firsthand that the difference between winning and losing sometimes is just so small, and the pain and hurt of being on the wrong side is so big.

Yes, Villanova won the title on a last second shot in one of the most thrilling NCAA championship games ever. But to paraphrase the great Willie Nelson, ‘Save a few for Lefty, too’, because maybe there should be a little something said about the Tar Heels.

Maybe when I’ve watched ESPN replay Jenkins’ shot for the umpteenth time, I want to recall a seemingly anguished coach Roy Williams and player Marcus Paige at the postgame press conference. And when I do, I hope I’ll feel something different from what I feel right now.

Those guys had to sit there and fight their way through the agony of the most painful loss one could imagine. They choked up, and unapologetically shed a few tears.

I hope you saw that, too, Cam Newton. Sometimes, no matter how painful, you’ve got to show the world you know how to lose with class. Why? Because it happens.

“The fireworks go off, and you want that to be your moment,” Paige said. “As bad as you want anything in your life, you don’t know how much our team wanted this game.”

One team was always going to walk off the court disappointed Monday night in Houston. Players on both teams understood that, just as they understand they don’t win every game they play.

But this meant more than any game they had ever played. This was the biggest game of their lives, and the excruciating way it ended was heartbreaking and the press conference afterward was almost as heartbreaking to anyone watching.

There’s no script to follow, no need to defend anyone, especially Roy and Marcus sitting there with the hurt still red and raw on their faces.

“I wouldn’t trade my team for anybody”, Williams said, choking back tears. “I just wish I could have helped them a little bit more.

“I feel so inadequate,” the coach lamented, “because I don’t know how to make it better.”

I know people will say I’m not being objective, but there wasn’t much Carolina could have done better, maybe get a man on Jenkins as he came across mid-court. No huge mistakes were made in a game Paige said he was sure they were going to win, especially after he double clutched and hit a shot with less than five seconds left that tied the game.

Williams has two national titles, so he’s felt the joy of winning it all; and he knows may be running out of chances to be in the Final Four again.

For Paige this was his only chance, and the senior’s misery will only be compounded by thoughts of the shot he hit to tie it and what it might have meant.

In defeat, Paige and the rest of the Heels showed me what winners are all about.

Sometimes there nothing to be sorry about except sorrow itself.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.