Monday, September 14, 2015

Fatale, Vol. 5: Curse the Demon

Fatale, Vol. 5: Curse the DemonFatale, Vol. 5: Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As many of you know, I'm a huge Wisconsin Badgers fan, no matter the sport. I'm an alumnus, one of my kids attends UW, and I live in Madison, where we've raised our kids in the shadow of Camp Randall, the Kohl Center, and the rest of campus - Okay, a five minute drive away, but you get what I mean. The University is really an integral part of our life.

Madison is routinely rated among the best college sports towns in America. But it wasn't always that way. Before I arrived in '96, the nation was stunned by the sudden emergence of the Badger football program from the shadows (many a veteran mentions "the Morton era" with a wince). And while the basketball team was always good, it's only since I arrived that it's been truly great. Of course, I can attribute that to my arrival . . . no, not really.

In any case, last year was a special year for Bo Ryan's basketball team. Those of us who watch closely knew it was coming. I recall watching Sam Dekker singlehandedly win the Wisconsin state high school basketball championship and thinking: "Hey, wait - this kid is special!" Then, all of a sudden, a few others emerge: Frank Kaminsky, Duje Dukan, Josh Gasser, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig - watching them, you knew this, the 2014-15 squad, was the proverbial "team of destiny". THIS was the team Badger fans had been waiting for. They tore through opponents with a combination of steady discipline, stalwart defense, better-than-average outside shooting, and a bit of luck. Yes, they lost a few, most notably, they suffered their first loss at the hand of perennial powerhouse, Duke. They had a few unexplainable hiccups against inferior opponents, but they entered the NCAA tournament strong, beating Michigan State for the outright Big Ten title.

They had been to the Final Four the previous year, but this year, they went into the tournament even stronger. They were not a young team dazzled by the lights, this was a group of grizzled veterans who trudged through some difficult games, beating one after another, maybe not comfortably, but convincingly. Then, in the Final Four, they faced the always-dangerous Kentucky - and utterly dominated them. They won 71-64, then turned to play in the National Championship game against . . . uh-oh . . . the Duke Blue Devils . . . again! Duke is like herpes. You just can't get rid of them! And though the Badgers fought tooth and nail, they ultimately lost to the very young, very talented Duke.

It was a disappointment to all of us Badger fans. We knew that this was our best shot - we had never assembled such talent that played so well together as a team! When one person was down or injured, two others stepped up their game to compensate, all the while getting stronger and stronger as they pushed toward that ultimate finish.

But it just wasn't enough. No matter how hard they tried, it just wasn't enough. They found, in the end, that they were out of gas.

Still, it was a good ride. Nothing to be ashamed of, by any means. But the thought continues to haunt fans and players alike - what could have beeen? What . . . should have been . . .? How could the story have ended? And what of those dreams of final glory? Where did they disappear to? Yes the 2014-15 season will always be remembered with fondness as something special. But they didn't quite make it over the top.

We were almost there. So close. So incredibly close. But . . . not.

This book, the final in the series, is a lot like that.

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