Saturday, March 24, 2007

hoyas v. tar heels

Sunday Georgetown University plays the University of North Carolina to see who goes to basketball's Final Four. Since my daughter, Georgetown Class of 2008, bleeds Hoya Blue, I won't be rooting for North Carolina even though God is from Chapel Hill. (If God ain't a Tar Heel, then why is the sky Carolina blue?)

Many are not old enough to remember the last time Georgetown played UNC in the tournament: the 1982 NCAA championship. This game had the most bizarre ending. With 12 seconds remaining, freshman Michael Jordan hit a 17-foot jumper to put the Tar Heels up by one. The Hoyas' Fred Brown pushed the ball upcourt to set the offense up for one final shot. However, for some reason he threw a pass right into a UNC's player's hands with no Georgetown player within 10 feet. This UNC player dribbled out the clock to seal the championship.

"My peripheral vision is pretty good," Brown said. "But this time it failed me. It was only a split second. But, you know, that's all it takes to lose a game. I knew it was bad as soon as I let it go. I wanted to reach out and grab it back. If I'd had a rubber band, I would have yanked it back in.

"He didn't steal it. I gave it away.”

It is listed as one of the NCAA tournament's top 10 most memorable moments. It will be replayed again and again during Sunday's game.

Now, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story....

In 1982 we lived in Illinois. I often watched ACC basketball on cable and liked UNC. Our oldest, Richie, was two years old and even at that young age was obsessed with sports. Before he went to bed at night we'd let him watch five minutes of sports on TV, any sports, it did not matter to him. Often I had a UNC game on. Richie would sit glued to the screen and sometimes ask "Who is that?" I saw that he was referring to #52 each time.

#52 on UNC that year was James Worthy, the team's leader and best player. (Yes, even better than freshman Michael Jordan.) Each time Richie would ask who he was I would answer, "That is Mr. Worthy."

James Worthy was the only player he ever asked about. Did Richie, at only two years old, recognize him as the best player on the court?

For weeks during bedtime prayers, Richie would finish with, "God bless Mommy. God bless Daddy. God bless Beaver. God bless Frog. [Two of his stuffed toy animals] And God bless Mr. Worthy. Amen."

We thought that was cute. However, on March 29th 1982, it was more than cute. It was a prayer that had God's ear. You see, with just seconds left in the championship game, James Worthy was on the court, not within ten feet of another player, when Georgetown's Brown threw the ball to him.

UNC won the NCAA championship. James Worthy was tournament MVP. Later that spring Worthy was the #1 pick in the NBA draft and went on to a hall-of-fame career with the L.A. Lakers (for more click here).

Richie grew up, married, and now has a beautiful little girl. Her first birthday will be on the 25th anniversary of that day when God blessed Mr. Worthy.

And don't feel too sorry for Fred Brown. He was starting point guard on the Georgetown team that won the 1984 NCAA basketball championship.

Bottom line: God heard the persistent prayers of a two-year old. God blessed Mr. Worthy.


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