3/16/2007

Colin Falls is my hero...

I am sitting in my basement watching the last minute of the Notre Dame v. Winthrop first round game of the NCAA Tourney and it doesn't look promising for my old friend and former high school teammate Colin Falls. Sadly, it appears as if he is making his first and final appearance during March Madness in the last of his distinguished four year college career. The Irish made a good run, coming back from down 20 in the second half to take the lead with 2:00 to go, but sloppy execution down the stretch from their underclassmen gave Winthrop their first ever Tourney victory. As it turns out Colin is named player of the game for ND, but I doubt that means much to him. Colin only cares about winning; personal accolades was always an afterthought. It saddens me to think that I may have just watched Colin play for the last time in front of a national audience (though I am hopeful his skill will not go unnoticed when its time for NBA draft day this summer), so I thought I would take this opportunity to give my two-cents on the Colin Falls that I know.

Colin's potential to be a standout college hoopster was evident to me the first time I saw him play when he was in 7th grade. I was a freshman at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois competing furiously with his older brother Brendan for playing-time on the Freshman basketball squad and Colin's St. Juliana team came to play in the annual tournament Loyola hosted for the local parochial schools. I remember hearing rumors that he had dunked for the first time earlier that year (which is a year younger than LeBron James was when he accomplished the same feat interestingly) and that he had to sit out half the game usually because he would rack up 30+ points by halftime and his coaches thought it better to spare the opposition the embarrassment of trying to contain him for a full game.

By the time he arrived at the Academy for his freshman year he was more than ready for varsity action, in fact, he may have already been good enough to play at some small colleges. I had managed to survive the rat race tryouts that fall, earning a spot on the varsity team as well, but only by the skin of my teeth. I had no idea at the time, but the next two years would be the most rewarding and memorable moments of my athletic career. Sure, we were good, no doubt about that, and I did have my moments of fleeting glory, but what stands out in my head today when I think about those days isn't doesn't involve sold-out gymnasiums, or our 22-game winning streak. What I will never forget is 3pm practice everyday after classes, because I got to chase Colin around the gym for a few hours.

The disappointment of his final college game will probably eat away at Colin for sometime to come, but I trust that he will eventually look back on his college career and realize that he put on quite a show. Every time I had the opportunity to catch one of his games on ESPN my competitive juices started flowing and I lost control of my emotions, taking out my frustrations on the inanimate TV screen, or anyone who was unlucky enough to be within earshot.

Never in my life have I had the pleasure to know, or compete with a better athlete, in any sport, which says a lot for the skinny white-boy from the suburbs of Chicago, considering the fact that I have several ex-teammates from my college baseball days that are currently headed toward the Major Leagues. I would enjoy nothing more than to see Colin end up making a career out of his unparalleled stroke from behind the arc, but it is difficult to say for certain that professional athletics will be in his future. Either way, thanks for the memories Colin, and best of luck, whatever the future may bring.
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