I originally published “Laugh. Think. Cry.” in 2009, but it seems especially fitting to link it today, as State prepares to face Connecticut tonight at Madison Square Garden in the annual Jimmy V Classic.
Having been written in 2009, before The Carolina Way was finally revealed as the giant lie we State fans have always known it to be, it will probably even make you shake your head at its relevance to The Flagship today.
Many younger fans know of Jimmy V’s legacy only because of the replays of his transcendent, iconic speech at the 1993 ESPY’s (here). They might not know, and certainly wouldn’t remember, that weeks before, as an ESPN color analyst, before the Duke game, Jimmy V delivered the original, more intimate version of this speech in his final visit to Reynolds Coliseum. Alpha Wolf appropriately called this “more direct and personal.”
No one who saw it, especially not the 13-year old kid from the North Carolina foothills who’d only known Jimmy V as part of the State basketball he loved, would ever forget it. And even though it’s a legacy as much tragic as it is uplifting, it’s one that 20 years later defines the State fan base: enduring.
See, there was a time, believe it or not, when State basketball was synonymous with excellence. Unfortunately, there was also a time when the opportunistic local media freely spewed unfounded vitriol upon Valvano, while and our cowardly, self-serving leadership refused to defend us. For two decades, an administration rife with incompetence hardly recognized Jim Valvano’s legacy.
The problem was, for all of them, N.C. State was nothing but a brand, a business. So they broke while we never did, simply because they never appreciated that, above all, we’re an enduring, enthusiastic bunch.
We’ve just never had it in us to give up.
And tonight, through some combination of great leadership by Woodson, Yow and Gottfried, we’re playing in our second Jimmy V Classic (as pointed out below, we previously played Gonzaga at the Meadowlands in 2002), which has many of us finally looking forward, rather than looking back. And that seems appropriate.
Make sure you read the comments below this post, because that’s where the great Jimmy V stories will be.
I used to always say that if we ever somehow ended up in this event, I’d be there. And tonight I will be, so look for me on ESPN.