Stories of “tragedy to triumph” are maniacally over-used in Hollywood and mainstream media and frankly have lessened the impact and importance of tragic occasions that occur in our own lives.
But on Saturday, something that transcends while at the same time defines that cliché took place in Stillwater, Okla.
Almost four months after a plane crash claimed the lives of head coach Kurt Budke and three others, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team defied all odds and won the WNIT championship by defeating James Madison 75-68.
It’s important not to make light of such a tragic situation and by every stretch of the imagination, the Cowgirls did their best to honor their mentor. Nobody would have been surprised to see the team mail the season in after experiencing that heartache. By all means, they had a free pass to do so.
Think about it. Budke had known each and every girl on his team as he was the coach that recruited them and brought them to Oklahoma State. His passing left a void in their hearts that could only be filled by doing what they loved...and what they would have done if he was still there.
They played basketball.
The team left one string hanging from the rim after cutting down the rest of the net in celebration. Budke’s widow, Shelley, climbed the ladder and in honor of her late husband, took home a piece of history.
Often times we get caught up in the moment or the season and forget that there are people playing the games that we enjoy watching. It’s almost like we have to be reminded every now and then to help us keep everything in perspective.
While there have been similar tales made into movies, nothing comes close to the feeling of experiencing a loss so close to home.
Congratulations to the Cowgirls and coach Jim Littell, who took over for Budke in November. If there was ever a team that deserved to find success as a way of helping an entire community and university overcome tragedy, it’s Oklahoma State.
Yes, life and what happens in it are infinitely more important than a game. But sometimes sports become the catalyst for healing and an avenue for accepting personal loss.