I am a person who believes that if you generally do good things, good things will occur for you in return, and if you generally do bad things, bad things are bound to happen to you. That is why I've found myself torn for the past week in deciding whether or not to root for Fairfax's own George Mason Patriots in the NCAA Tournament.
It's a great story. An 11th seeded team that has never before won a tournament game upsets the last two champions and half of last year's Final Four on an unimaginable run to Indianapolis. What's more, they're only the second 11 seed to make a final four, and if they manage to make the championship they could go up against the only other team to accomplish that feat, LSU, who did it 20 years ago.
But what is inescapable to me is the simple fact that Mason's top guard, Tony Skinn, had to miss the first round game against Michigan State because he punched Hofstra's Loren Stokes SQUARE IN THE GROIN!
The CBS play-by-play and color guys have sugar-coated the incident for the national audience. According to CBS, Skinn is just an emotional player who had a mental lapse in a crucial moment. I can forgive CBS for this, because you so want it to be that classic sports story, and to be honest, the guys on CBS probably hadn't seen a lick of Colonial Athletic Association ball this year before the NCAA tournament. But area fans know better than to gobble up the steaming plate that CBS is serving.
On February 15, Skinn and Drexel's Dominick Mejia got involved in a physical chase for a loose ball, resulting in Skinn on the ground and Mejia standing, at which point Skinn decided it appropriate to kick Mejia. Mejia returned the favor and both players were ejected. In fact, Skinn was the subject of a lot of ire among CAA fans even before he threw the low blow.
A quick look at an ESPN.com poll shows that America appears to have forgiven Skinn and is rooting for his Patriots to win the Championship. (The question is who are you ROOTING for to win, and states favoring GMU are red. A poll of who WILL win comes up with completely different results.)
And I have to admit, I'm even caught up in the drama. I rooted for George Mason to beat the over-confident and somewhat-detestable UConn Huskies. But for a second it did look like karma would catch up with Skinn.
Just after Connecticut scored with seven seconds remaining to cut the Mason lead to 74-72, Mason inbounded to Skinn, who was fouled by UConn's Rudy Gay and went to the line with six seconds to play and a chance to seal the victory. Skinn missed the open end of a one-and-one, UConn rebounded and drove down the floor to tie the game up and send it to overtime.
Even though I was rooting for Mason, I was somewhat satisfied by the fact that Skinn got what was coming to him, choked in a key situation, and assuredly had lost the game for his team. My faith in karma was restored. There was no way the Patriots were recovering in OT to win.
But no. Mason owned the overtime period, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, and when an almost identical situation came up where Jai Lewis missed potential game-ending free throws with six seconds left and Mason up two, UConn couldn't capitalize and the buzzer sounded, stamping GMU's ticket to Indy.
Even if Skinn goes 0-for-40 shooting in the Final Four matchup with Florida, misses 10 free throws down the stretch and completely costs Mason the game, that doesn't matter; they made the Final Four. People don't remember who made the Elite Eight, but they do remember who made the Final Four. They may have to think about it for a while, but they remember.
Why am I surprised, though? Sports are full of cheaters, dirty players and all around jerks winning championships and holding records. If karma really played a factor, Joey Porter wouldn't have won the Super Bowl this year, Barry Bonds wouldn't hold the single-season homerun record or be close to breaking the career mark, and the Yankees would have exactly 26 fewer World Series titles to their name.