I’m sure the best team won Monday night, but did the best story win?
Depends on whom you were rooting for, possibly, but as I do in most big sporting events, I was watching the media-related undercurrents in North Carolina’s systematic 89-72 dismantling of Michigan State in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship game.
For me, it was a good example of the national news media “falling in love” with a story that just didn’t happen. The story line, as I followed it on a number of news websites where analysts predicted an MSU victory,was:
Here’s underdog Michigan State, scrappy and tenacious, with a roster filled with players who grew up in difficult circumstances – from the urban Midwest to mine-studded Sarajevo. They were bringing some much-needed good news to economically-depressed Michigan (although I didn’t see anyone ask U. of Michigan fans if they were happy about the Spartans, it seems) with their run through the tournament. That included wins over two No. 1 seeds. No. 1 North Carolina, the more talented team, wouldn’t be tough enough to beat the bruising Spartans — despite the fact that UNC beat a tired, short-handed Michigan State team 98-63 back on Dec. 3. The Tar Heels would be the third top seed to fall in the upset to this year’s team of destiny.
Turns out the Tar Heels had their own story and their own destiny. In the first half last night, they did to Michigan State what Kansas had done to them in the semifinals last year, effectively putting the game away before halftime. Leading the charge were senior center Tyler Hansbrough and juniors Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, the top three players from last year’s team. They had all passed up the opportunity to jump to the NBA so they could erase last year’s Final Four embarrassment and take another shot at the championship. Not as much human interest as the Michigan State story, but — at least to the North Carolina media – a story nevertheless.