Dicou: Memphis, Utah feels your pain

By By Natalie Dicou and

By Natalie Dicou

Dear Memphis,

Welcome to Utah’s world. Now, whether you like it or not, you’ve become just another mid-major that made it through the gauntlet of the NCAA tournament only to fall short to a marquee program when it counted. You’ve become Utah with a southern drawl.

You, like the Utes 10 years ago, were the last team to be eliminated from the Big Dance. Welcome to Second Place-ville, Memphis. Welcome to the Land of What If. Put up your feet and stay awhile, Tiger fans. Let us all hang our heads together in subdued disappointment as we marvel at how close we actually came to winning it all. Damn, were we ever close!

Now you, too, know what it’s like to trudge off the court at the Alamodome as confetti falls from the rafters and into your hair while the guys who broke your hearts exult at midcourt.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

We, like you, know what it’s like to realize we were only a few missed jumpers away from earning eternal joy and lasting pride.

Watching you blow it Monday night brought back the emotions we felt a decade ago. Granted, Utah wasn’t up by nine with 2:12 to go only to blunder it all away, but the Utes did have a second-half advantage they were unable to sustain. Utah, just like you, was winning the national championship game with time ticking off the clock — and for a few whimsical moments, just like you did Tuesday night, we Ute fans dared to dream.

Ten long years later, Utah suits up a team with little hope of making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament anytime soon, let alone cutting down the nets. Utah fans realize now, more than ever, how precious that chance was back in 1998.

You too will come to understand this bitter truth in due time: Tuesday night is the closest you’ll ever come. College basketball is simply too competitive. Never again will everything fall into place so seamlessly as it did for you.

For the Utes, never again will Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Hanno Mottola converge on the same school at once. As for your Tigers, stars Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts will likely declare early for the NBA draft, and soon, you’ll come barreling back toward earth and once again take your place as just another overachieving Conference USA team.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but we feel it is our duty, having been there, to enlighten you on what lies ahead.

We’ve got some bad news for you. The old adage is true: No one remembers the loser.

For now, you have a tiny ray of hope remaining that your phenomenal season will be remembered, and — don’t get me wrong — it will. But it’ll be remembered not for its magnificence but for the dramatic way in which you lost.

Perhaps, in a few years, your football team will bust the BCS (don’t bet on it). For Utah, it was a wonderful consolation prize.

No one can know what lies in store for your Tigers.

As for Utah, one thing will never change: that big, red banner that hangs in the Huntsman Center will always be there, displayed on a wall somewhere between one of the entrances and one of the snack bars. Until the end of time it will hang there, conjuring up ambivalent feelings among Ute fans, forever mocking them as they buy hot dogs and a Coke, with the simple words: RUNNER-UP.

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