The Big Dance



Three years ago, Virginia basketball was headed for the NIT, another in a seemingly endless series of mediocre seasons ending in disappointment.

Exactly one year later, they were the ACC regular season and tournament champions and a Number 1 seed in the NCAAs.

So much can change in one year.

That season was magical. The kind of magic that you feel when you are a kid on Christmas morning. The kind of magic that makes you believe anything is possible.

We lost in the Sweet Sixteen that year, bounced early by a foe we never saw coming. A few months later, I lost my dad.

So much can change in one year.

That same team that had filled me with a childlike giddiness the season before now gave me purpose. A conduit in which to safely release the overwhelming feelings that were a part of my new reality – fear, anxiety, uneasiness.

But, perhaps more importantly, an outlet for all the things which felt like they no longer deserved a place in my altered life – excitement, hope, passion, happiness. For five months, I channeled all of them onto the court.

And when, a year later, we faced that very same foe in the post-season again, it was a shot at redemption. A chance to vindicate the heartbreak of the year before. For them and for me. But as the minutes ticked down inside the Charlotte coliseum, somehow I knew it was not meant to be.

In that gut wrenching loss, they finally gave me what I needed most – the chance to grieve. To be angry that things didn’t go the way they were supposed to. To mourn the loss of what could have been. To feel the panic roll through me in waves.

And finally, to know that loss is an outcome, not the end.

So much can change in one year.

And now we come to the start of the Big Dance once more. Another Number 1 seed. The exact same foe waiting to face them again. A reminder of past failures. Another shot at redemption.

We all have ghosts that haunt us. People with the power to hurt us again and again. Wounds that we cover with bandaids but never seem to heal. Places where we cannot speak the language, where there is no translation. Dragons that seem too big to slay.

And it is possible that they will fall again.


Maybe they will remember that so much can change in a year.

Maybe they will remember that you have to lose before you know how to win. That there finally comes a moment when the ghosts no longer hold any power over you, when the wounds no longer hurt, when you are finally bigger than the dragon.

This team will never know what they have meant to me. How they helped me heal. How they connected me with my dad. How they connect me with my children. But if they did, I suspect they would say, as Coach Ron once did, “Aw, shucks, Cameron…that’s just who we are.”

So cut down the nets in Houston my beloved Hoos. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter to me.

A sad byproduct of our all-or-nothing culture, of our clamor for instant gratification, is that we often forget that success cannot be measured by one game. A year cannot be defined by one day.

No, what truly matters is not whether you have banished the ghosts or slayed the dragons but simply whether, in totality, we can look back and say I am better than I was.

To allow ourselves to appreciate the good in the midst of the bad. To love hard even when it is hard.

To know that even when we lose, we survive and advance.


Subscribe to the LOP and never miss a post:



  1. Thank you for sharing another outstanding, though-provoking and moving post. I love this blog!

    Oh, and “Go Hoos!” 🙂

  2. Thank you, my darling, for helping me to “get over myself”…I’ve been carrying around the loss to Syracuse like a bleeding ulcer. I care too much. I love this team too much. Not just the players or their play, but the attitude, the character they bring to each moment of each game. My sadness comes, not so much from the fact that we didn’t make it to the final four, but from the gut-wrench that I’ll never see this team play together again. I can and will hold them in my heart and treasure the joy they brought to me and to so many. And I will continue to love hard. Mom