Okay, here it is – in the last month, but especially the last week, I’ve fallen in love with Luke. For any other fanbase, that would sound weird, but I’m sure you’ve fallen in love with him too, or at least some semblance of it after Saturday’s easy, relaxed, non-health threatening win.
Luke has now become my ‘first among equals’ on the team. I don’t like to say favorite because I love them all, but he’s my ‘it’ guy.
But not for the reasons you think.
Did I swoon for the heads up plays of the last two weeks? Yes sir, I did. Was I smitten with the dipsy-doo rebound against Duke? How could I not be? Did I not cry to the heavens with my eternal love for the team after last night, when – (I’ll admit it, and if you didn’t you’re a better fan than I) – I’d lost faith?
Was I overcome with emotion when he jumped up off the bench and ran to help a fallen brother, with what was a gruesome, battlefield level injury? Of course. The injury scared me and sucker punched me. That quick showing of compassion made me cry.
The real reason I’ve come to love him is because of the rest of the year. The part where we all put too much pressure on the guy to live up to hype that wasn’t of his own making.
And all the while he couldn’t get his arms above his head without daily PT.
He’s a 21 year old, still a kid by the standards of my advanced age. If that had happened to me, at that age I would have screamed, pouted, carried on and generally made a disgraceful whiny ass of myself, yelling ‘It’s not fair!’
But Luke Hancock said nothing, went back in and punched the clock, put in the PT, put in the shooting, put in the hard work. The reason he’s a captain has nothing to do with his talent, high as it is. He’s a captain because he puts the team first, whether it’s getting the big rebound, making the big free throw – or saying a quiet prayer with a teammate to provide comfort in the worst situation.
Think about the grace and dignity he kept throughout what had to be a bitch of a year. In pain, in a fishbowl, and nothing working.
Then to come back with this.
Today I read the article on Luke’s dad being at the Final Four. My own dad died two years ago, and I now have two sons under three. Last week, at the end of that crazy day in Indy, I thought about the three things that made me most proud / happy that day.
The third best was getting to the Final Four.
The first best was when my 3 year old ran into our bedroom and woke me up with a giant hug.
And in between that was watching Captain Luke Hancock show why he’s a good man, not just a good ballplayer.
This Louisville team is beloved. Win or lose tomorrow, I’m couldn’t be more proud of our team, and I couldn’t be happier to have a captain like Luke.
I have three hopes for tomorrow. One is that I hope my son gives me another big hug tomorrow morning like the one last week, just before I hit the road for Atlanta.
Two is that Luke’s dad – and all the other parents and friends, family and fans – gets to celebrate the Big One with him and the team.
But most of all, no matter the outcome of the game, I hope that my son grows up to be as good a man as Luke Hancock.
All right. Let’s do this.