The beauty of sports isn’t just in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Those aspects steal the headlines, but there’s so much more to love about a culture that often brings out our most human elements.
The heart-wrenching image of Kevin Ware’s teammates falling to their knees around the injured player when he broke his leg against Duke was a special moment. In Ware’s agony, we witnessed a sense of unity—not just from Louisville—but from everyone watching that game. For a brief time, a basketball game didn’t seem quite as important.
The emotion of Ware’s injury (and the publicity that followed) made rooting for the No. 1 Cardinals a little more settling. It’s hard to not pull for a team that showed such compassion for their teammate and determination to keep playing for him.
Junior swingman Luke Hancock was one of the first players to Ware’s side when he went down. He reached out to his injured teammate with compassion while others were unable to open their eyes. He did so with the sensitivity of someone battling his own pain.
Bill Hancock was in attendance for Louisville’s Final Four contest against Wichita State. Like many fathers, he came to support his son. But unlike many of those same men, the elder Hancock had to battle just to make the trip to Atlanta.
According to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports, the 70-year-old has an “extremely serious” ailment that his family had previously chosen to not disclose. He summoned enough strength to make the trip, though, and picked a tremendous time to do so.
With Hancock looking on, his son put on one of the most spectacular performances of the Final Four, recording 20 points in the Cardinals’ comeback win against the No. 9 Shockers. In a game during which Russ Smith struggled to keep his team afloat, it was Hancock who took the Cardinals on his shoulders and willed them to a 72-68 victory and a trip to the national championship game.
According to Forde, Hancock made sure to give his dad a hug after the game, acknowledging the impact his presence had on his performance.
And after telling a national audience about his brilliant, 20-point performance against Wichita State, Luke had to make one more stop on the way to the locker room: the front row of Georgia Dome seats behind the Louisville bench.
"How was that?" the junior forward asked the frail, 70-year-old man standing before him.
And so Luke embraced his father, Bill, who willed himself to be at this Final Four. In a Louisville tournament run awash in emotion, this was the most poignant moment nobody knew about.
Those “poignant moments” emphasize the most beautiful aspects of sports, and that moment between Hancock and his father is another reason to pull for the Cardinals when they take the floor against Michigan Monday night.
As sports fans, we often get too caught up in numbers and stats and records. We sometimes lose sight of the human element that is always present, be it at a little league baseball game or the NCAA tournament.
There’s nothing wrong with putting aside our team loyalties and rooting preferences to open our hearts to the more significant aspects of the games we all love. One team will be crowned NCAA champion Monday night, but when the nets are replaced and the Georgia Dome lights are shut off, players like Hancock won’t just be thinking about the title they earned.
That’s not to suggest Michigan fans should turn their backs on the Wolverines Monday night. After all, the reason for the Big Dance is to crown a national champion—something for which only two teams in the country are still competing.
But for those of us who don’t have a horse in this race (myself included), wanting to see Louisville succeed for Ware and Hancock and all the people who pulled together for them isn’t such a bad thing. There’s a lot more to sports than the banners we hang in the rafters.