Saturday April 4th, 2015. A great day in the history of Wisconsin Badger basketball. Many fans were at the game in Indianapolis. Others flooded the streets in Madison, Milwaukee, and other great cities in Wisconsin. I was in the hospital with my wife, cherishing one of the last days I had with my mother. And for one night, even in her state of pain, we all shared a smile and laughed.
Brenda Joyce Dockery was a wonderful woman. Committed to community wellness as a Nurse Practitioner, she is my hero. Even more, she allegedly was one of the first African American women to graduate with honors from Madison’s Nursing Program (still haven’t been able to track down some historical evidence supporting her and other respected nurses about this). Being diagnosed with Stage 4 Natural Killer Cell Lymphoma was devastating for my family and me. I traveled home 3 times in the span of two months to be with her. There were more bad days than good during that transition. She had grown to be at times in a comatose state because of the chemotherapy. But for one night, as I watched the game and recognized what was happening as Dekker hit the step-back three and took the charge, I had a reason to smile. My wife smiled, as she became a Badger fan while we were friends. And for reasons I can’t adequately explain, my mother smiled and laughed. She would transition home later that month on April 22nd.
We knew she was still fighting that night. And I’ve learned in almost 29 years of living that we learn the most about ourselves when our backs are against the wall, and we’re faced with adversity. Cancer might have taken my mother’s body, but it was evident in many situations, especially that night, that it would never take her soul or spirit. Hoping against hope is the beginning of doing the impossible. She continues to inspire so many in our wonderful state because that was her mentality in all situations. Her spirit lives on.
This current Badgers team finds themselves this week in a precarious situation. Four seniors who went to two Final Fours and were a part of that memorable night face the end of their historical run. A questionable seeding and formidable teams await them this weekend. Outsiders aren’t really giving them a fighting chance to make it to the sweet 16 or make any noise during this tournament. But as my mother taught me, our conditions on the outside don’t have to determine who we are. Our response to the challenges we face reveal our true identity. And when we hope against hope, and dare to fight with everything we have, we can be lifted to heights that appeared unreachable before.
The Wisconsin Badger legacy has a chance to live on. For Bronson, Nigel, Showy and "3tto", their college careers are coming to an end. But their success is symbolic of the next step the program took. We’ve gone from being a perennially good Big Ten team to a college powerhouse. However, this team has a chance to inspire and alter perceptions again. It can make them believe again. Why not hope for another Final Four, or even a Championship? Recent history suggests that beating the odds is what Wisconsin does. That gritty spirit is within this team. It will be passed down to the younger players, just as my mother’s spirit was passed down to my family and me. As a fan, here’s to hoping for a few nights where I get to witness a miracle again.
Bucky, make them believe. Again.