“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” English novelist Charles Dickens wrote in “A Tale of Two Cities.”
As I write this column there’s plenty of basketball left for the Grizzly men, including the possibility of a berth in the NCAA tournament, representing some of the best of times for college players, the majority of whom never get the opportunity to participate in the Big Dance.
But the five-month season edging toward closure also offers the worst of times as some of players will never again share a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call for a 6 a.m. flight from Southern California to North Dakota.
They won’t share a cramped visiting-team locker room where an unlocked door hanging perilously from a commode stall offers the only bit of privacy after a disheartening defeat.
They won’t jostle for an exit row on an airplane that would provide comfortable seating for a person half their size for a three-hour trip to yet another airport, another hotel room and another gymnasium.
Laughs, kibitzing, birthdays, anniversaries, sickness and injury, family tragedy, deaths – it all occurs in the confines of a 20-person travel party that at the beginning has so little in common but hoops.
And for me as a broadcaster, the best of times is finding the words to describe their final college competitive moments without tearing up, which I am often and unapologetically prone to do, and share my thoughts about their exploits.
And again the time approaches to bid adieu to four seniors who, as Big Sky tournament play begins, had profound effects on Grizzly basketball.
These seniors were a big part of what I think is one of the most cohesive teams I have ever been around. They set a lofty bar for future teams.
I have always maintained it is hard to visualize the potential attributes of such leadership, but when it occurs, one can certainly realize it.
The two senior starters and two bench players on this team all contribute but in entirely different ways.
But what Derek Selvig, the sole Montanan, Art Steward, Shawn Stockton and Jordan Wood have provided is an intangible, unselfish and collective spirit that was rewarded with one of the most dominant runs of success seen at University of Montana in some time.
I have never really been one to compare a team or an individual to another. But the fortitude of each to conquer his own demons in order to focus on the collective entity speaks volumes about the people they already have become and the kind of lives they will live.
There probably will be more hoops for some, already a child for one, a family for another and coaching and teaching in the offing. But wherever this quartet proceeds they can realize they were the staple of a special group that forever will occupy an extremely fond place among my Grizzly memories.
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