As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
It had been a furious comeback. After an early deficit and praise being heaped upon media-darling Tom Izzo, Maryland trailed Michigan State by just a single point in the waning seconds. All-everything senior guard Greivis Vasquez penetrated the lane and drained a short jumper to put the Terrapins ahead 83-82 with 6.6 seconds left. Michigan State inbounded the ball and Draymond Green advanced it feverously up the court. Green stopped at the top of the key and threw a pass, one that nearly clipped another Michigan State player streaking into the frontcourt, to Korie Lucious. Lucious dribbled left and fired a shot as time expired.
It went in. And just like that, Maryland’s bid for a Sweet Sixteen berth failed, the college career of Vasquez ended and legendary coach Gary Williams’s last great team was no more. It hasn’t been the same in College Park since. Hyperbole? Unfortunately, no.
The game was played on March 21, 2010. I watched with my dad. It was emotional. There was screaming. The language was…yeah. I’m still not entirely over it. It comes to mind every time Maryland plays Michigan State. Every time. Maryland didn’t play great, but they fought for 40 minutes - a typical gritty, gutsy Williams team. Lucious’s shot was a joke. Dude barely contributed. He averaged 5.6 points per game that season. And Green’s pass was lucky to even get to him. Argh! I do not like Michigan State, I do not like Tom Izzo, I do not like Korie Lucious, I do not like green eggs and ham, Turtle fan that I am.
The game comes to me in my dreams sometimes. A nightmare? No. I bend reality. Lucious misses the shot. Or he isn’t even on the team (he was kicked off the team the following season…more salt enters my wound). Or Green’s pass deflects off the trailing teammate and trickles out of bounds. Or Vasquez’s shot that put Maryland ahead is actually at the buzzer and not the six-second mark. I make no apologies. These are my dreams. In this realm, reality is up for interpretation - mine.
There is a lot of alt-reality going on now, and it isn’t occurring harmlessly in dream state. The truth is malleable. Concrete facts have morphed into soft Play-Doh and are subject to alteration and weaponization. It is reasonable to believe in different dimensions and parallel universes, but there is no line between some of this stuff now. It is this dimension and this universe intentionally fractured into coexisting sub-realities.
The nation’s political sewer is the most obvious playground for this disturbing fact-fictionalism. It’s here where one party’s members allegedly harvest the blood of children, John F. Kennedy Jr. returns from the beyond, COVID and climate change aren’t real, vaccinations are government mind and body control, and Donald Trump is a political messiah who really won the 2020 election. Truth isn’t derived from an amalgamation of unquestioned facts; it's pick-a-topic, assign it an inflammatory name or slogan and blast it in short sound bites, over and over, louder and louder. Like the wave of a Jedi’s hand, suggest that the blue room is actually green, often and obnoxiously enough, and the hue begins to change.
Macro level, it is a troubling trend of self-victimization and bait-taking that is counter to, even threatening of, fundamental American ideals. This once great bastion of democracy – a grand system with inherent discord that assumes the existence of shared, fundamental truths and a respect for the democratic process and will of the people - has become a caricature of itself.
Which is why sports – a place where truth prevails - is such a pleasant retreat. At the end of any contest, there is an undeniable, accepted verdict – a winner and a loser. Gripes about play calls, lineup decisions or poor officiating never change the outcome. Losing players and stakeholders can fuss, moan and lament what could have been, but none of it can alter facts. None of it can change an opponent draining a three at the buzzer to send your team packing and crush your soul on an otherwise beautiful spring afternoon.