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***ARTICLE*** Bonus article

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  • ***ARTICLE*** Bonus article

    I wrote this for a different website than this one, but I thought maybe people would like to read it, since it's basketball-related and makes several references to UNI.

    "Be a dreamer. If you don't know how to dream, you're dead."

    "I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, well, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can't trust em."

    "To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

    "Don't give up, don't ever give up."

    I'm a hopeless devotee to the game of college basketball. I love the sport. I love the game itself, how it's played, its pageantry, its colorful characters, its teachers, its lessons, and its history. One of my personal heroes is Jim Valvano. He truly transcended the game and used his life to create something great that has endured.

    He died of cancer in 1993, so I never actually saw him in his element. I know I'm "the old guy" around campus, but I'm not quite THAT old. I've said that I love the personality involved in college basketball; each team is a reflection of how they all think as a unit. Jim Valvano's teams were truly a reflection of him. They were fun, loose, but incredibly hard to deny. Jim always had a smile on his face, even as cancer overtook his body. His teams always played with smiles too. Not like UNI's men's team, of course... that's more of like a wry "Garrison Keillor" smile.

    No, Jim has a different smile on all the old photographs I've seen of him. It's a smile that says life is never something that can get you down; all you ever do is learn from it. He clearly enjoyed the lessons that life taught him. The lessons I've learned just by learning from remind us that life is supposed to make you laugh.

    Life is never truly serious. Jimmy V told a story early on his career at NC State. An alum told him if they didn't have a successful season, he was going to kill his dog. "I don't even have a dog," the baffled Valvano replied. "No matter," said the alum. A week later a package arrived for the coach. It contained the cutest puppy he'd ever seen with a bow around its neck and a note saying "Don't get too attached."

    So as I watch the famous video of his speech at the ESPYs the same year of his passing (and cry AGAIN), I try to remember what Coach Valvano has taught me: life is a constant reason to smile, even when it doesn't look like. I love that these kinds of people are abundant in a sport that might seem silly to get so excited about. Each win and loss in basketball is just a reminder that you're not quite there yet, but you should enjoy the game.

    It only made sense then as Bob Valvano was doing commentary for a Northern Iowa game last season, I walked by and got excited. "Bob Valvano! I friggin' LOVE you, man! LOVE the Valvanos!" He smiled politely as he seamlessly continued to listen to his instructions in his headset.

    "Once it starts, it never ends."
    -Eldon Miller