When the CisternYard Media crew was checking into our hotel in Asheville on Friday afternoon, 24 hours before the Cougar women were to take the court for their quarterfinal game against Appalachian State, the Western Carolina women were already checking out.
As we were walking to our rooms, we passed purple-clad women, some still red-eyed from losing the first game of the Southern Conference women’s tournament, wheeling their luggage out to their bus to make the short drive back to Cullowhee, knowing how quickly a season of hard work can snap to a close.
It’s hard not to develop a sense of morbidity, or inevitability, when you pass those players a day before yours have taken the court.
Right now, Jason Capel, the UNC alum whose Appalachian State men came within one miracle shot of downing top-seeded Davidson, is sitting in front of me, accepting the well-meaning “great job” refrain from fellow coaches, conference officials and appreciative fans. After they offer their congratulations or condolences and wander off, Capel goes back to stoically watching the College play Elon, waiting to find out who his team would have played, if that last second 3 had fallen, and his season hadn’t snapped to a close.
Twenty-four hours after the Catamounts were checking out of our hotel, the College of Charleston women’s team was walking off the court after a season-ending loss to Appalachian State. Natasha Adair has done great things with our women’s program in her first year as a head coach, but that didn’t make the loss any less painful. Another season snapping closed.
Not every college basketball team loses its final game, but 99 percent do. Whether you lose in the first round of the SoCon women’s tournament, or the final of the NCAA men’s tournament, the loss is just as painful to the players on the court. Just because you don’t know their names, don’t pretend that they don’t care.
So, why do we watch? Why do keep reaching out, only to have our fingers pinched when another season snaps closed?
We watch because there is no end of hope in a sports fan. We hope, and we believe. Sometimes we plead to disembodied forces to help guide a wayward shot toward the basket, but mostly we hope and we believe.
And, because every so often, you win that game that would have been the final game of your season. That game you had no chance of winning. That game when the miracle shot falls. That game that sends you dancing, or means you don’t have to check out of your hotel quite yet.
Winning that game does not lessen the pain when the season snaps shut, but it makes it worth it. That is why we hope, and that is why we believe. Even though we get our fingers pinched sometimes.
*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.