Sports

Final Four! Final Four! A Salute To My Favorite Sporting Event Of The Year

The best thing about the "One Shining Moment" video from the 1991 Final Four is that this was the year Duke beat UNLV in the semifinals and then beat Kansas in the finals, and there are lots of shots from that UNLV game, which was, I have to tell you, the greatest basketball-watching experience of my life.

Now, some of you may be wondering, "Linda, why would you be a Duke fan? Didn't you go to a midwestern liberal-arts school that was, at the time you were there, dominated, in terms of athletics, by the bike derby? Why would you voluntarily become a member of the least popular fandom in college basketball and thus take on yet another reason for people to yell at you?"

My sister went to Duke. And while I was a member of no particular athletic constituency, I was on the varsity thinking-my-sister-was-awesome squad, so it transferred. And, of course, none of the baggage of it meant anything to me at the time: I had never watched college basketball until then, and I had no idea that Duke was the Coldplay of basketball, in terms of "your loyalty will mean that a certain number of people will never speak to you again."

Why 1991 is, surprisingly, better than 1992, after the jump.

The Duke Blue Devils celebrate the 1992 national championship.

This is the 1992 Duke team. See, you can barely even see Christian Laettner! Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now, for some Duke fans, it's the 1992 regional final against Kentucky, ending in this shot — which, yes, I admit, sent me running up and down the stairs of the house where I lived at the time, because I had no other way to rid myself of the excess energy. But the problem with the 1992 shot is that that entire game includes way too much Christian Laettner, who, believe me, I think frequently acted like just as much of a wad as you do. (This is why I think of the final shot in terms of the Grant Hill pass, rather than the Christian Laettner shot. To this day, asked to choose a number out of the air, I will often choose 33, because of Grant Hill.)

But in the UNLV game, one of the key shots was a three-pointer made by Bobby Hurley with 2:17 to play (yes, I knew that without looking it up). The year before, he had actually had to flee the game with digestive difficulties while almost the same Duke team was being spanked by almost the same UNLV team in the tournament final. One year apart, the kid went from running off the court in distress while his team was being pureed into a smoothie to beating a team that absolutely nobody thought Duke had any chance of beating. (At that moment in time, UNLV was the Yankees, when they were at their best. UNLV was "you might as well not bother showing up" good.)

I tell you all of this to explain why the only bad thing about the "One Shining Moment" video from 1991 is that it does not include the shot of the crying UNLV cheerleader that I watched over ... and over ... and over. I often shorthand any statement that I am sometimes almost unimaginably petty about sports by simply referencing the "crying UNLV cheerleader," because oh, how I loved the crying UNLV cheerleader. I'm surprised I didn't name her and make up stories about her. Because I really, really loved watching her boo-hoo at the end of that game.

But I make do with the cheerleader-free "One Shining Moment," because it contains almost no footage of Christian Laettner, lots of shots of guys like Brian Davis who I liked much better, and reminders of two fantastic Bobby Hurley-Grant Hill plays, including the alley-oop at about 1:56 in this video (actually part of the Kansas game), which came within about two inches of being too high, sailing into the stands, and humiliating everyone involved — but didn't.

I will be watching again this weekend, and I will undoubtedly be thwarted in some horrifying way — like everybody else, Duke loses most of the championships it plays for — but I will still be watching. And possibly singing along. I really like "One Shining Moment," I admit.

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