There was 2:12 left on the clock, and a resigned serenity washed over us – it was over. And this wasn’t an attempt at applying the reverse jinx. It was over. Billy Packer-first-half-UNC-KU-Final-Four over. Down nine? The way Kansas had shot three’s? The way Rose handles? The way CDR had shot free throws lately? Done.
After a long Darrell Arthur jumper – “the worst shot you could possibly take,” Packer called it – Sherron Collins, he of the eyes that explode with wrath, stole an inbounds pass and drained a three. Hope was alive! Down nine to down four in mere seconds. It was at about this moment that the CDR clang show began, and although our rooting interest was for Kansas, it was impossible not to feel for the kid. All the talking heads who were certain Memphis had found a panacea for its foul line woes watched in abject horror as the charity stripe became a sinkhole of false promises. At this moment, it must have been debilitating to be rooting for Memphis.
More confounding disappointment soon followed: Collins darted down the floor in the waning moments and mysteriously wasn’t fouled (Calipari claims that was the plan, but kids mentally freeze up, like C Webb did in ’93), and then Mario Chalmers got the ball and he wasn’t fouled either. His improbable, leaning, triple swished through the net. Bedlam and ballgame. Overtime was to follow, but KU fans could have started rioting in Lawrence at this precise moment. Pity Derrick Rose (full post coming on him, so save your breath).
So we’re two major sporting events into 2008, and we’ve seen two colossal chokes. Though some refuse to admit it, the New England Patriots – two touchdown favorites – gagged against the Giants. The Tigers, up nine last night with 122 seconds left and seemingly a lock to sew up the school’s first title, choked. The Masters is this weekend – wouldn’t that be something if Tiger faded down the stretch? The NBA playoffs are on the horizon (anyone smell a LeBron or Kobe choke?). Wouldn’t you just love another epic Yankees or Red Sox postseason collapse? We’d try to think of a similar fate unfolding in the Olympics, but we can’t name an athlete or a sport that’s taking place. As of now, 2008 is the Year of the Choke.
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