Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maybe not so dumb, after all

After watching sports all my life, it's amazing enough to see something you've never seen before. But to see something you've never seen before twice within moments of each other, especially with one incident more inexplicable than the one before, well, that's something else again. A perfect storm.

It's even more amazing, inspiring, even, when the perpetrator of said most inexplicable act might even be able to turn it into a life lesson.

You may not know the name Nasir Robinson (above, left), and hopefully for his sake, the junior from the University of Pittsburgh won't find himself rubbing elbows in perpetuity with the likes of Bill Buckner, Chris Webber, Steve Bartman and Fred Merkle when it comes to being in the wrong place at the wrong time in sport annals. But this morning, Robinson's definitely in the same room.

With 1.4 seconds left in Pitt's NCAA tournament game against giant-killer Butler Saturday night, Robinson was standing as a defender while Pitt teammate Gilbert Brown hit the first of two free throws to tie the game 70-70. Seconds earlier, Brown had been the victim of a mind-boggling foul by Butler's Shelvin Mack, who bumped Brown at midcourt with Butler holding a one-point lead.

Now, it looked like Butler would pay the price for such a mindless act with Pitt at the line with a chance to somehow steal the game. And after Brown sunk the first free throw, at least this would be decided in overtime.

That is, until Brown missed the second shot, which put Robinson in the spotlight. The rebound came down to Butler's Matt Howard (above, right), who only had to hoist a full-court prayer, and make it, and do it all in 0.8 seconds for the game NOT to go into OT.

Which is what should have happened, until Robinson's left arm, for some reason, came down on Howard's right arm. Foul. Butler's Howard to the line, and one free throw later, it was over, as the Bulldogs escaped with a 71-7o win.

That all brings us back to my earlier point, which is why Robinson might be able to sneak out the back door before Bartman offers to buy a round for the house.

"I take the blame, man. I take the blame for the loss," Robinson told the Associated Press afterward. "I've been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn't have done that. It was a stupid play. It wasn't the ref's fault. It was my fault."

The fact Robinson was able to face the criticism and spotlight he never wanted speaks volumes for his maturity and accountability. It's hard to fathom now, but one day he may be able to look back and say the experience helped him.

He's only a junior, so he'll get another chance next season on the basketball court, and then for the rest of his life off it.

I'm rooting for him. And you should too.

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