Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Its a Fairytale"

Thus screamed an young lady. It was an hour past midnight in this normally sleepy university town. And with a regular working day coming up tomorrow with end of the semester almost in the sight - you would expect a quiet night here.

Except that something unthinkable has just happened. We had just destroyed a supposedly very good UCLA team in faraway Indianapolis to win our first national basketball championship. A five thousand strong crowd watched the game on this giant screen in the indoor stadium and double that number crowded the university avenue. It was unlike any other night you would see here.

The crowd started pouring in hours before the game was supposed to start. They waited patiently till they got in. They cheered every gator point, roared at every defensive block and clapped at each UCLA turnover. It was the ambience of a regular game - with the bands and cheerleaders and the gator chomps And as it became clearer and clearer that we are going all the way - the noise level just increased to an unbelievable level.

And finally the win came pretty easily. We were never really pushed. It looked all too simple. And unreal. Within minutes the university avenue was full of fans clad in orange and blue. They came from every directions - running around delirious with joy. Complete strangers hugged, kissed and highfived each other. They sang "Its great to be a Florida Gator" in unison. Some scenes can be described - others you need to be part of to realize. This was one of those occasions. A guy climbed up the traffic lights and started waving a Florida flag while precariously balancing himself up there. Beer flew wildly. Grown men were getting overcome with emotions. They screamed and wept. It was sheer magic. There is a reason they call it March Madness. Finally Florida had their moment in sun. This is a team nobody gave any chance at the end of the season. This is a team made almost entirely of underclassmen. They were not supposed to win. They did not get any respect from the columnists. UCLA was the team with all the basketball tradition. But they did not care. And on the biggest stage - they just did what they could do - play with lots of heart. And play as a team. I don't care if they come back a stronger team a year later. This was their defining moment. This is what they will be remembered for.

And I am just so glad to be a part of something this amazing. It just can't get any better.

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