Updated Tue, Mar 20, 2012 6:51 pm
(This is an actual email exchange, from two different sides of a Gatlinburg, Tennessee McDonald's…we're on spring break, after all)
Grant Burkhardt (Tuesday, 3:07 p.m.): As many of these do between us WOUB reporters, this discussion began...in a car. Is there a better place to begin a fruitful, friendly conversation about the only thing that really matters in any of our lives at this particular moment? Probably not. I'll get us started, as we'd already laid the foundation for this question on Saturday afternoon, after Dj Cooper and company beat Michigan and advanced to the Round of 32.
Now, after clinching a trip to the Sweet 16, is Ohio University a Cinderella?
I say, with a frightful shudder, this Bobcat team is not yet a "Darling" of the NCAA Tournament. It takes a truly monumental win, against a perennial powerhouse program - again with the alliteration - to call a low-seeded team a Cinderella. Think about as recently as last year...VCU wasn't a true Cinderella until it beat Kansas in the Elite 8. Don't believe me? The Rams beat:
#6 Georgetown (which has now been eliminated by a double-digit seed in four straight seasons)
#3 Purdue (which was without Robbie Hummel, the tournament's true "Darling" - if you don't want Hummel to win every championship from now until eternity, you're not a real human)
#10 Florida State (about as un-Cinderella-worthy as it gets)
It wasn't until VCU went and hit 190 three-pointers against the Jayhawks (much to the chagrin of WOUB reporter Blake Brodie) that Shaka Smart's crew was ever a team worth rooting for against any opposition.
That is the role of a true Cinderella, yes? That you root for that team, regardless of who you have winning it all in your office pool?
Rob Guliano (3:28 p.m.): Alas, dear Grant, the disparity lies in the definition. You may ask, Uncle Robby, how do you define a "Cinderella?" It's simple. You turn to the most credible source in the fairy tale princess industry - Disney.
Michigan, by referring to rival Ohio State as "Ohio," indirectly acted like they were above the Bobcats all year. The certainly gave off the vibe of a certain ugly stepmother. What about South Florida with their putrid offense and rugged style of play? If that isn't an ugly stepsister, I don't know what is.
And did you see that post game speech by Ohio University President, Dr. Roderick McDavis? You can't tell me the big guy isn't a wand away from having an IMDB account as the Fairy Godmother. Then there's Dj Cooper's silver Nike shoes. I have 20/20 vision and those bad boys looked like glass to me. Just imagine a pair of glass slippers navigating the jagged bricks of Athens - beautiful. Even the play-by-play and color guys (Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius) could fit in as the chatty mice Jaq and Gus.
I'm not saying, but I'm just saying - look to the sky and open your ears when you arrive in St. Louis. You might see a flock of birds waking up the masses to the tune of "Stand Up and Cheer."
Burkhardt (3:56 p.m.): What I got from that - and only because I know your lingo - is that you don't agree with me. Fair, albeit in a Richland-Street-round-about kind of way. I'll examine another point, while you finish watching The Little Mermaid.
In no way am I belittling Ohio's 2012 NCAA Tournament run. If I told you I ever thought I would write "Ohio's path to a Final Four..." as I did Monday, in talking about Kendall Marshall's injury, I'd be doing more than lying to you, Robby. I'd be lying to John Groce. And that is a heinous, terrifying crime.
This is one of the more amazing accomplishments in school history, and in no way am I here to knock anyone down. I'm a Bobcat student, first and foremost, and I'm as amazed as everyone else is, every time Dj Cooper swings himself around and hurls a precision pass from one side of the court to the other to a wide-open shooter (see: Ivo Baltic's only open mid-range jumper against South Florida).
All I'm saying is that a mid-major making the Sweet 16 isn't as uncommon as it used to be. The reason Ohio is being labeled the "darling" of this tournament is because, and only because, it is the highest seed remaining. If Norfolk State would have somehow avoided being thoroughly thumped (alliteration, again, I'm worthless) by Florida and made the Sweet 16, that would be worthy of Cinderella status because it had never been done before. This Bobcat run is one win away from being what I would call a Cinderella.
Guliano (4:24 p.m.): Is it bad that immediately after I read your Little Mermaid jab I began crafting in my head what people associated with the Bobcat program would fill the roles of "Sebastian" the crab and "Flounder" the fish? I am tempted to resign from the argument and just settle for calling the 'Cats Esméralda from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. North Carolina has the Hercules feel, as we cross-reference our animated pictures, and with Ohio living day-by-day through the must win MAC tournament and the first couple rounds of play in the NCAA tourney, I feel like they have the waywardness that fits the gypsy lifestyle. One could say that Hercules and Esméralda have a date in St. Louis this Friday....
However, I must digress for the sake of giving you and your immaculate, flowing hair a platform to continue the argument somewhere within a couple time zones of reasonable. Be conquered not by your emotions, Grant. As a local journalist, you have seen every ebb and flow from this team all year. As a tuition paying student (first and foremost) you have seen every ounce of potential in this team. You let your mind wander, and you did so often.
This 2012 Ohio team is a novelty on the national stage. The run of two years ago has long escaped the national landscape. The masses yearn for a bracket-breaking team to ride the bandwagon of in the second weekend of play. It's not necessarily about how far Ohio has gotten already or who they have beaten to general college basketball fans. What makes them a Cinderella is that they are the lowest seed in the second weekend, and fans are free to stretch their imagination with the Bobcats as far as they please.
Burkhardt (5:02 p.m.): I'm glad you decided to digress from your digression. Thanks for that.
That's really the beauty of this tournament, regardless of me thinking Ohio isn't a true Cinderella. Right? That a run like this not only makes the minds of Bobcat faithful wander, but it gives the romantic brains of casual sports fans a jolt, too.
That's the true color of college basketball, and I didn't know I was writing about it when the Bobcat football team was 3-0. In March, if you keep winning, you keep playing. In November, if Tyler Tettleton was still undefeated as a starter, Ohio would have played in the Cotton Bowl or some stupid game and been done. There is no such thing as Cinderella in college football, more-than-partially because of the system in which teams play.
Allow me to state that I am 21 years old and didn't get to see Villanova beat Georgetown in 1985...so for my cash-money, the original Cinderella of college basketball was George Mason in 2006. GMU beat Michigan State and Tom Izzo in the first round. North Carolina and Roy Williams in the second. Connecticut and Jim Calhoun in the Elite 8. Now THAT is a run. I've never been more excited about a team for which, two weeks earlier, I had no rooting interest. Let me be clear though, mid-major tournament runs NEVER get watered down. Just having this conversation is getting my heart all fluttery.
Guliano (5:27 p.m.): Now that you have essentially fallen in love with, asked out, dated, weathered trials and tribulations with, proposed to, married, and eventually divorced the 2012 Ohio basketball team in two paragraphs I would like to conclude the argument.
There can be more than one Cinderella over time, you hopeless romantic. Let's breakdown what the motion picture landscape has offered us over the years (and it has not always been pretty). Of course, we had the famous animated wonder. But things got weird. At one point, we had Drew Barrymore playing a medieval Cinderella in Ever After. Brandy played it at one point, with Whoopi Goldberg as the Fairy Godmother. In 2004, there is no doubt in my mind that a young Grant Burkhardt was camped out at a Pittsburgh-area movie theater just dying to see Hillary Duff fall head over roller skates (she plays a waitress at a diner in the movie) for dreamboat Chad Michael Murray in A Cinderella Story. Even Russell Crowe got in the act as an aggressive Cinderella in the boxing flick Cinderella Man. Throw in Selena Gomez late last decade and an upcoming Amanda Seyfried version, and it is apparent that there is no problem with college basketball having a new Cinderella each year.
This year it is the Ohio Bobcats.
P.s...how's the courtship with "2006 George Mason?" Any buns in the oven? Hope they aren't nagging you too much. Because all you have to do is embrace the green and white again, and this weekend in St. Louis you'll be on the honeymoon of a lifetime.