Lessons Learned

by Justin Cherot

After one strange rollercoaster of a year following the carnage of one vague but revealing post on my old web site, I’ve come to two conclusions.

1) I’m sorry.
2) I’m not sorry… but I wish I would have handled things differently.

The majority of this post is going to deal with the former, because leaving you–or even the thought of leaving you–was just the wrong move.

I’m no better than Seth Allen, Nick Faust, or Roddy Peters. Maybe I’m worse, because I’ve known you longer. Because I’ve been there for the highs and the lows… and while it had been awhile for the highs (2009 was the closest and that run ended far too soon), the lows had never caused me to leave before.

It’s not like I went around seeing other people. One of the reasons I might have, for lack of a better word, dropped the ball on the first Thursday of this tourney, is the sheer fact that I really didn’t watch a lot of college basketball this year until it was far too late. The fact that my national champion is alive and I still have five of my eight and three of my four still breathing in a year like this is bonkers.

And then there you were. You lost half of your scholarship players because they thought the ship was sinking. But you still had Dez Wells and Jake Layman as holdovers. And through the grapevine I heard you added an actual blue-chipper, a guard Justin Cherot would love, in Melo Trimble.

But I still wasn’t convinced… plus the move to the Big Ten just felt weird… almost like YOU were leaving US in a way, sacrificing tradition for a few measely bucks (in reality, it was more than a “few measely bucks, but whatev). I didn’t know how psyched I could get for Wisconsin or Michigan St. because there was no history (although, as previously linked, CLEARLY there was a history with Sparty that we all pretty much ignored).

But, despite being picked 10th in most preseason polls–not in the country, in the BIG TEN–you got off to a great start. I started believing again.

When the bracket came out, I tempered my expectations. I knew you… no… WE… probably wouldn’t get out of that region alive, but worst case I figured we would have a fighting chance against the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.

But ironically, you know when this whole thing came full circle? I didn’t come back after the good start, or when you swept Tom Izzo in the regular season, or when you had the Xfinity Center up on a Tuesday against Wisconsin.

You know when I came back? When you played your worst game of the season against West Virginia Sunday. It felt just like the old days: screaming at the TV, punching things, completely weirding out my girlfriend (yes, my girlfriend, but we’ll get back to that). For all of those turnovers, I felt like you guys were one good run away from getting back into it.

But then it happened. Trimble, already dinged up and probably wobbly from an earlier collision, caught a knee from his own teammate in the back of his head. The friendly fire was costly, and it was probably the only time all year that I thought about all those off-season defections. With no disrespect to Varun Ram, facing Atholton’s full-court “54” trapping defense was a far cry from facing West Virginia’s 94 feet of utter pressure, and he wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Also, as a fan, never once did I say, “The athletic trainers need to let Trimble play if he wants to play.” As badly as I wanted him to come in and save us (again, US), I knew he just wasn’t right. If everything goes well, he’ll have plenty more battles as a Terp and more than likely with guards like Stephen Curry and John Wall in the near future once he gets to the league. I thought it was a great lesson in your training staff seeing the bigger picture.

When the final buzzer sounded, I muttered several expletives under my breath. The pain was still too real. But I turned to my girlfriend, choked back a couple of tears, and said, “We had a good year.”

We. It should have always been “we”. And I’m sorry I left.

The original subject, the whole reason why I wrote that piece a year ago? I was just a sore loser, probably the sorest of losers out there because for some reason I just wasn’t good enough for you.

But I’ve also learned it doesn’t mean that I’m not great, and that other people don’t see how great I am. Just like I saw how great you could be, and just like your new boyfriend see how great you are, I’ve found someone who sees that in me. Hopefully this finds you, and I wish you nothing but happiness… the same happiness I’ve found.

A year later.

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