Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rooting interest

It's simple transference, I suppose. And so, when you make your bones writing about sports, you  quickly accept as a condition of the job that fans of whoever you're covering will assume you're just like them.

Which is to say, they always claim one of two things:

1. You hate (name of fan's team/school/rooting interest).

2. You love (name of fan's rival team/school/rooting interest).

It isn't true, of course. It never has been. Most sportswriting galley slaves I've known over the years were too busy sweating deadlines to care about whether or not Team X or Y was winning or losing. But you were never going to convince Joe Fan of that, and so after awhile you just accepted it and quit trying.

Here's the thing, though: Just because we don't root the way fans root doesn't mean we don't root at all.

What we do, and it's admittedly a subtle difference, is root for storylines. Some are just better than others. And so let me put it out there right now that I am unabashedly rooting this weekend for the storyline that has Notre Dame and Kentucky meeting in the Elite Eight -- and Notre Dame knocking off the Wildcats.

This is not because I have any particular feeling about Notre Dame one way or the other. I don't.  It would just be a hell of a storyline if it happened: After years of trying, one of the best guys in the business, Mike Brey, finally gets to the Final Four. And does so a week after losing his mother.

Most of America knows the story so far: That Brey found out his mom had died of a heart attack before the Butler game last week, and kept it to himself to avoid tipping his team's focus. Only after his boys had beaten Butler in overtime -- on Brey's birthday, no less -- did he almost casually announce it in the postgame.

He still hadn't told his team, preferring to let them savor their win over Butler and even joining them in the celebration. I can't imagine what emotions were roaring through him during that time. But again, he suppressed them for the good of his kids.

Selflessness like that deserves its reward. The fact that this is the best basketball team Mike Brey's ever had at ND only adds to the narrative.

And so: Go, Irish.

Not because it's the Irish, mind you. Because it's a story that practically writes itself.

And there's nothing a sportswriter loves more than that.     

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