Monday, March 30, 2009

End of an Era

(Updated below.)

Maryland basketball fans will remember Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman and Kristi Toliver this way:

Not this way.

We love you. We are proud of you. We will never forget the skill and determination you brought to the game and the glory you brought to your school.

For now, that is all that matters and all we can say. Peace out.

A.M. Update: Here come the obits, the tributes, and the faint whiffs of off-court intrigue.
  • Camille Powell recaps the game here. Coach B acknowledges both the heartbreak and the tremendous accomplishment of Coleman and Toliver:
    "It's always tough to have that moment, for seniors, for their careers to end. Especially two seniors like these two," said Coach Brenda Frese, who embraced each player as she left the court. "What they've meant to our team, what they've meant to our program -- you hate for it to end like this. I want to remember all the good times, all the wins. Remember the position they put us in."
  • Rick Maese, having doomed Coleman to failure by imagining her in Icarian terms of flight after Saturday's astonishing performance, lets Shoulders and Coleman speak for themselves as they grapple with the raw emotions of a huge defeat. Get out your hankies, and read it here.
  • Mike Wise puts himself inside Toliver's head as she tries to find her shot and rhythm in the game, which, because of Louisville's very effective defense, was difficult to do. Read it here. As good as Wise's emotional reconstruction is, the eyebrow-raiser in his column is the suggestion that there is bad blood between Coach B and her former assistant, Louisville head coach, Jeff Walz. The two no longer speak, according to Wise, which makes a moment we noted at the conclusion of the game even more noteworthy. As time expired, the teams went through the traditional line of handshakes and acknowledgment, but Toliver and Coleman stayed on the Maryland bench, too disconsolate to participate in the ritual. At that moment when cameras were focused on the devastated stars, Walz, engineer of their disappointment, went over to each of them, got down on his knees, and put his arms around them. Moose thought there was something jarring about it at the time. It seemed disingenuous of him to take on the role of comforting them for a loss he and his team would be boasting about in a matter of seconds. Word of friction between Walz and Frese makes the gesture even harder to take. If Walz sincerely wished to express sympathy to Coleman and Toliver or admiration for their brilliant careers, he should have done so out of the limelight and only after Coleman and Toliver had had a chance to compose themselves. To insert himself into that moment was to take on a role that rightly belonged to his old boss and, apparently, his new foe. He beat her team, handily. He didn't need to try to usurp her role.
Or so it seems to us, on a sunny morning when March Madness has suddenly turned to March Sadness.


  1. Amen, and amen. We do love you, Marissa and Kristi. You have given us tremendous joy for the last four years and we wouldn't trade them for anything. And as I wrote on FB, TERP WOMEN RULE MY HEART, still. I will alway remember you jumping and smiling, sinking the 3s, the jumpers, and powering to the basketball. A hearty salute to the MIGHTY TERP WOMEN, esp. those marvelous two seniors.

  2. I don't know, nor do I care about any Brenda v. Walz b.s. It's not important. The Terps lost and it is sad for us who loved them. Roxie, you've been around a long time now, and you know these things happen. Part of what is seductive about sports is how unforgiving it can be with its glorious narratives, some tragic, like this one.

    Teams don't win national championships every year, but getting deep into the tourney, winning the whole shebang in '06, Kristi and Shoulders elevating their play to legendary status, and the first ACC championship in 20 years for UMD, not to mention that breathtaking comeback against Villanova -- that's plenty, isn't it? Brenda and her team did that.

    And we got to watch them play. It was fun. This isn't a big deal in the scheme of things. We just had a lot of fun. That's what games are for.

    Like you, Roxie, we wish our sports heroes would always stay young. Aw shucks, they graduate; they become adults; they move on. Us, too.

    Looking forward to seeing you, you wonderful old dog!

    Your old friend...

  3. All true, Margie. We didn't mean to suggest that any drama between the two coaches meant much in the grand scheme of things -- only that it was a little more salt in the wounds of a deep disappointment. Also, Walz swooping in to comfort Toliver and Coleman still doesn't sit right with us. The bottom line is he worked hard to end their college careers, and he succeeded. The engineer of such a defeat doesn't get to be the shoulder on which the defeated cry. Especially if he is going to turn around a minute later and trash those same players on national television, announcing that he had told his players that Maryland wouldn't guard them. Wow, thanks, Jeff -- Mind if I blow a little more snot into your shirt sleeve?


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