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Thursday March 29, 2001

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This magic moment

Headline Photo

By Kyle Faraday

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When I arrived on the University of Arizona campus four years ago, I was grabbing on the tails of the most heralded athletic accomplishment in school history.

The previous spring, in the waning moments of the Wildcats' 94-89 victory over Kentucky to earn the school its first National Championship, I had made my decision to come West.

My fate to attend the UA was sealed in a flurry of Miles Simon overtime free throws.

I was hooked from the beginning with the story created by that 1997 championship team, and it made me want to become a part of it.

Not only did Arizona win its first National Championship, a feat that would have been deemed unthinkable 15 years earlier, but it did so with a moxie that made the squad impossible to dislike. The Wildcats distinguished their improbable run through the tournament by becoming the first team in NCAA history to defeat three No. 1 seeds in a field of 64 hopefuls.

The story that accompanies any athletic event is, in many ways, more important than the game itself. Adversity that must be overcome, difficult circumstances that must be hurdled both on and off the court - these are all driving forces in the great drama that keeps us glued to the television.

This drama adds a human element to sports and is exactly what makes them important.

Up until the current men's basketball team, no story has been as special to me as that 1997 championship. And I'll admit that my belief in this team did not come without a crisis of faith.

Looking back on the tumultuous, and at times tragic, periods endured this season, it is almost unbelievable that any team could have rebounded to such a triumphant fate. Who would have thought that such a talented bunch would be vulnerable in so many ways.

On the court, the players were a bickering crew of underachievers that seemed ready to cash in the season, so long as the NBA was still in their collective futures.

Off the court, their hall of fame coach was dealing with personal issues that truly prioritized the meaning of a basketball score.

As remarkable as their resurrection from these times has been, the Wildcats still can't pinpoint exactly where the season began to turn around. It is clear, however, that this season has transcended mere athletic accomplishments.

Somewhere along this remarkable run, however, the games have become about more than basketball.

The script has written itself, so I ask you to sit back and let the scope of the situation wash over you, because something like this doesn't come around very often.

Be proud of the team's athletic conquests, and conscious of the real-life tragedy that threatened to overwhelm the people responsible for them.

We need to recognize that this group is doing something special, and come together as Wildcats to provide our unyielding support. It would be unacceptable to anoint this team with anything less.

Please don't let any cynics tell you these games aren't important, because this is the time for all of us to become hooked by the story.

I implore you to soak up the once-in-a-lifetime drama of this situation, one in which we all share a common bond.

Become fanatical about our team.

The story is getting even better.