Blog Entry

What Might Have Been

Posted on: April 6, 2010 12:28 am
Edited on: April 6, 2010 1:29 am


Gordon Hayward (Getty Images)Of All the Words of Mice and Men, the Cruelest Are 'It Might Have Been'

As Gordon Hayward's desperation halfcourt shot banked just a little too hard off the backboard, Kurt Vonnegut's famous phrase from "Cats Cradle" came into my mind.  Right now all over the country, people are praising Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils for their fourth title, putting the coach in rarified air amongst his peers and moving Duke past Kansas into sole possesion of fourth all-time in NCAA titles.  But I don't care about that.  Let the other writers celebrate the winner and crown Coach K the mightiest to ever walk the floor.

I will instead focus on the losers and how close they were to unmatched glory.  Think for just a second what would have happened if Hayward hit his shot.  It would have set in motion a celebration that would have likely never been topped in NCAA Tournament history.  72,000 in attendance would have joined every American who didnt have a personal connection to Duke University in an unadulterated glee ride celebrating the utlimate victory for the little guy.  A small private school in Indiana, filled with players who were not recruited by the big boys and were never considered able to make it this far, had found a perfect ride to the Championship game and in the process, taken down the evil empire of college basketball.  It is such a perfect story that it simply does not seem real.  But the joy that would have emoted from Lucas Oil stadium would have been real and might have been unsurpassed in sports since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. 

Disagree?  Think of a better example of an entire country rallying around a story and celebrating together.  I can't think of one.  In our territorial notion of sports, we celebrate victories over other areas of the country and loyalties are often split based on where you are.  We dont do much in the way of nationalism either and because the main sport in which the world competes against each other (soccer) isn't our bag, we dont get off on beating other countries very often. But this would have been the force of a collective nation, minus a few random Dukies, celebrating at the same time.  How great would that have been?

And that shot!  Had Hayward bankd that shot in, it would have immediately taken its place as the greatest shot in the history of college basketball.  Lorenzon Charles, Christian Laettner, Keith Smart and Michael Jordan would have had to scoot over and make room.  A new king of the mountain would have taken its place.  The circumstances (as the buzzer sounded, from half court, the underdog making it to beat mighty Duke) would have immediately catapulted it into discussion as the GREATEST play in history for any sport.  It would have been on commercials from now into eternity and there would never be a moment when its iconic image would have left the collective sports mind.

And the individuals involved.  It goes without saying that Gordon Hayward's life would have never been the same.  He would become a name that was remembered for generations and it is not an exaggeration to say that his life would have changed forever.  In addition to becoming a hero on Butler's campus for eternity, he would also have become a superstar in the nation as a whole.  He would have owned the Today Show, David Letterman and the White House and from now until the day he died, he would have been remembered as the guy who hit the greatest shot ever. 

And he isnt the only one.  Matt Howard would have been a hero as well, with his points down the stretch and a hard pick on the last play that would have lived forever.  His wispy moustache would have reached cult status and we would have seen middle school kids growing similar facial hair to be like Matt.  Coach Brad Stevens would have been more than just the Coach who looked young and took his team on a magical ride.  He would have been a national champion and on the path to be the greatest young coach in the nation.  His future is bright regardless, but a 33 year old coach who wins a national championship at Butler on the greatest shot in history would have had the world as his oyster.

Alas, none of this happened.  The shot was off just slightly.  Duke won and while college basketball fans will remember Butler, it will be as a part of something great, not something iconic and legendary.  Butler and its players have nothing to hang their heads about. They put together a magical run and were part of a great championship game.  They will forever be able to look back and remember being part of something special and unique.  But that doesnt mean that there won't be moments where Vonnegut's words ring true.  When it comes to a championship, it might have been.

Category: NCAAB

Since: Apr 7, 2010
Posted on: April 7, 2010 2:13 pm

What Might Have Been

Judging by your comment you are obviously a Duke fan because no one else will have you not because that is where you received your associates degree.  Your main argument was that Hayward's shot would not be remembered and you downplayed it as if a half court shot is something that anybody could make in their sleep, especially one to win the NCAA championship.  You then go on to say this shot would have been forgotten after somebody hits "an even crazier shot with everything on the line", as if hitting a half court shot to win the NCAA championship is as common as an Asian Duke student.  If he made this shot everyone would have been talking about it and everybody who witnessed it would never have forgotten it.  Need I remind you, a Duke fan, of when that sissy Christian Laetner made a shot from the free throw line to win not the championship but the East Regional.  This shot has been played over and over and over to the point where I don't even have an aneurysm when I see it, just a little vomit goes into my mouth.  The circus around Hayward's shot would have been greater than Laetner's because it meant more and was a more difficult shot.  The bottom line is, is if Hayward's shot would have gone in it would have been one of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history and I doubt many people would have forgotten about it, especially since CBS would have replayed it a million times over.  Idiot.  Amateur. FAIL.

Since: Apr 7, 2010
Posted on: April 7, 2010 10:36 am

What Might Have Been

" don't have a huge slice of the graduating-high-school demographic even available to them because of the University's entrance requirements."

Hahaha! Tongue out Duke's basketball recruits are subjected to the same admissions standards as the rest of the student body? In 2007, the average SAT score of men's basketball players at Duke was more than 400 points below the average SAT score among male non-athletes admitted.



A total score of 997 is not shameful but is below the national median score (1000+).

Since: Apr 7, 2010
Posted on: April 7, 2010 10:32 am

What Might Have Been

In such a tightly contested game, every possesion counts. I agree with the writer who said that the inbounds play mismatch with Singler was critical. As critical were some of the substitutions that the Butler coach made in which Duke had an obvious advantage.

If Hayward hits the halfcourt shot, then Coach K goes down in flames with one of the most idiotic calls in history, an intentional-miss freethrow.

Unfortunately, Butler will not be remembered for their gutsy performance; just another forgotten runner-up. And another big-name school proves that money rules, along with the North Carolinas, the Florida's, etc. Bummer.

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 6, 2010 10:33 pm

What Might Have Been

What a pleasure to read that wistful, imaginative piece by Matt Jones, whoever that might be. There is a lot of mediocre writing about sports (though I love it anyway), but this little essay was full of insight, wonder and some real style. For one thing, he cites one of the greatest Hoosiers ever, Kurt Vonnegut (RIP), a tall Indianopolis man who couldn't shoot a lick, I'm led to believe. He would have had some odd and sweet and probably biting commentary on the whole business of Butler and Indy and Evil Empires and some of the other silliness that inevitably surrounds big-time sport. But this was a fine reflection, and what a tense and gritty game!
Living in China, I lucked into seeing the only game of the tournament that was shown here (Chinese voiceover of the CBS broadcast, but the sound was gone by the second half), and it took this old basketball coach completely in. AGAIN! And as a deep-down-Duke fan -- as Doyel pointed out so well, I remember when they were everything good about college ball, when they vanquished the Evils (UNLV) one year after being trashed by them to get that first banner. And absurd coaching salaries, credit card ads, shoe deals and holographic designer uniforms aside, they still do a lot of things right and don't have a huge slice of the graduating-high-school demographic even available to them because of the University's entrance requirements. (Hey, here I am making knowing pronouncements, just like a know-nothing CBSSports comment-adder! But I think I'm right about this.) I don't think Duke is perfect -- the whole business of "school sport" was tainted long ago by hypocrisy and non-academic "sports scholars"; the wonder is that so much goodness still exists in it -- but there's a lot that is admirable.

Thanks again to Mr. Jones for his thoughts on "what might have been". What WAS was pretty fine writing, taking one superb contest and helping us to see what it means (and might have...).

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 6, 2010 10:31 pm

What Might Have Been

The Bulldogs got jobbed by the refs. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. They got calls based on their rep.

The inbounds bucket by Singler, when the Butler player had his back to the ball, was the single most back breaking point of the game for the Bulldogs. I told our son at that point, that if Butler loses, that play was probably the reason.

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 6, 2010 10:21 pm

What Might Have Been

Pretty much sums up the reason for all the Tebow hate out there too hype and over-exposure.

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 6, 2010 8:06 pm

What Might Have Been

Ur joking right. Duke by no way had the refs on their side. In fact it was the refs that kept Butler in the game. Singler gets mauled on a rebound no call, Schyer gets bumped to the ground no call. Want to talk about the clear outs Butler did. Take notice to the clear out late in the game where Butler actually had a Duke player in a hold. BUTLER SCORED.

  What about when Singler went to the rim got rode and bumped no call.

  Please go back and review all the calls, AND CLEAR OUTS obvious as heck

   In fact I believe the NCAA should review this game, which I believe they do anyway and those refs should never do a tournament game again.

  What about when there was a loose ball and Butler recovered and then he he rolled and his foot went into the back court. You know what that is called a back court violation. AGAIN NO CALL.

  I'll admit Butler played a great game, but they had at least 8 men on the court.

     Maybe one should be wondering how Butler stayed so close.

      Review the game.

Congrads to Duke, but it wasn't ur best game.


Since: Dec 8, 2008
Posted on: April 6, 2010 6:53 pm

What Might Have Been

How about the bad call on hayward when he made basket and was called with charging, duke not set, a definate block.
How about the simple foul that should have been a tecinal because duke did not go for ball just knocked howard out of
the court.  Good game, but I wish the refs would let the players win and not do it for the big dogs.  Refs tried to give it to
K State, they let them beat Butler to death in that second half, butler simply would not give up.

Duke should thank the refs for this title and probable already did.

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 6, 2010 5:50 pm

What Might Have Been

No, the writer isn't taking a bit far...

First... I am pretty sure he was joking about Howard's stash.

Are you old enough to remember Laettner's shot?  Because it's been almost 20 years since he made it, and I remember as if it was yesterday.  It's not that hard actually... I see it replayed EVERY tourney.  Championship winning plays are simply never forgotton.  Magic's mini sky hook, Jordan's 6th championship over Russell, Kirk Gibson fist pumping while gimping around the bases... you think that these plays are forgotten?  You must have a terrible memory or are just young and naive to think that people forget these things.

Haywards shot would have been infinitely bigger than Laettner's shot, or any of those I mentioned.  It would have transcended beyond the game into a modern day David vs Goliath story for the ages.  Hayward could have at the very least made a living as a motivational speaker or commentator had the shot gone in.  Quite simply... it would have been the stuff movies are made of, only there would be no need to make a Hoosiers movie and embelish the ending for Hollywood as they did... you could just show the story ending as it actually happened.  It would have been the definitiion of cinderella storybook ending that only comes along... well it has never happened.  I for one can't even come close to remembering anything even close to resembling what may have been

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: April 6, 2010 5:47 pm

What Might Have Been

Actually, if they had a timeout, Duke probably doesn't intentionally miss the free throw. If the second free throw is made, then Butler needs a long shot to tie it up. So a timeout would have forced them to play for OT instead of playing for the win.

Since Butler would have used its last time out after the Duke free throw (make or miss), they would not have had a time out to use if they couldn't inbound the ball, or would have maybe made an awkward inbounds pass, or had the pass stolen or knocked away.

There are so many things that were still in Duke's favor when they stepped up to the line near the end of the game.

The game was really decided on the fadeaway jump shot that was a few inches too long on Butler's last legitimate possession. Down by 1 with the game on the line and they just didn't make the shot, or get the rebound or tip the ball in for the lead. Not the first time this has happened and certainly not the last.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or