Ask a dozen different sports fans to name their favorite thing about sports, and you’re likely to get a dozen different responses.
But probe a little further, and most sports fans can all agree on one thing — few things better exemplify sports than the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
And few sporting events better encapsulate those polar-opposite emotions than March Madness.
Given how definitively finite a college athlete’s career is (especially with so many players playing just a single year in college before declaring for the NBA), the agony of defeat in the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament is particularly pronounced.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 27, 2017
Former Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox went viral after his emotional reaction following a loss to North Carolina in the 2017 tournament.
An equally powerful and emotional scene took place after Virginia Tech was bounced from this year’s tournament with a crushing 75-73 loss to Duke in the Sweet 16.
The Hokies had an unbelievable opportunity to force the game into overtime, but literally came up an inch or two short.
Amazing play. Virginia Tech had chances. Buzz Williams drew up a beauty.
Man. Duke survives AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/8mxQA3Z9K9
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 30, 2019
The expressions on the Virginia Tech players’ faces and their visceral reactions to the loss spoke for themselves, but it was the scene afterward that mattered the most.
Hokies coach Buzz Williams led his team in a powerful prayer, focusing particularly on his team’s seniors and graduate students who will never play another NCAA game.
“God, You say in the Bible that when we don’t know what to say, that You understand our heart,” Williams said in an audibly and visibly emotional locker room.
“Thank you that the last 3️⃣ shots, in the #Sweet16 were these 3️⃣guys…”
— Virginia Tech Basketball ? (@Hokie_Hoops) March 31, 2019
Williams thanked God for each of his players who would no longer play for him: graduate student wing Ty Outlaw, senior guard Justin Robinson and graduate student guard Ahmed Hill.
“God, thank You so much for Ty,” Williams said. “Thank You for the four years he’s been with us. Thank You for his mom and how she supported him. …
“Thank you for how much he cares. Thank you for how smart he is. Thank you for how tough he is. Thank you for his attitude, good times, bad times. Thank you that he’s going to get a double degree. Thank you that he’s been an everyday guy.”
He turned his attention next to Robinson.
“God, thank You so much for ‘5,’” Williams said. “Thank You that he’s been the engine from the very beginning. Thank You for his magnetism with everybody that he comes in contact with. Thank you for his spirit. …
“I pray for his life as a leader, I pray for his life as a father, I pray for his life as a husband, God, that as he becomes the governor, as he becomes the mayor, as he becomes the head coach, God, that you would just anoint him with the opportunity to impact people’s lives for their life.”
Finally, the coach prayed for Hill, who grew up without his father present in his life.
“God, thank You so much for Ahmed,” Williams said. “Thank You for his story, thank You for his fight, thank You for his work ethic, thank You that he’s been an everyday, all-the-time, never-take-a-break guy.
“I pray that you would give him favor in what he does and where his feet step. I pray that as he becomes a husband, that the examples that he’s seen since he’s been here will break the cycle in his life. I pray that as he becomes a father, that the examples that he’s seen here will break the cycles in his life.
“I pray that as he becomes a leader, as he becomes CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that he would continue to dispel every potential possible stereotype that’s been labeled to him.”
The coach thanked God for the relationship he and everyone on the team have with those three players.
“God, I pray that you would fill these guys with the right kind of humility and the right kind of love, that it’s not selfish, that it’s not for them, but that they would know through all that they’ve been through here that the best kind of leadership is servant leadership,” Williams said.
Simply awesome. Coach Buzz Williams showed that, even in agonizing defeat, his Hokies had so much to be thankful for, and he couldn’t have relayed that important truth any better.
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