Even if you don’t follow March Madness, or you follow the big NCAA competition but only the men’s bracket, you’ve probably heard of the legendary UConn women’s teams, their coach Geno Auriemma, and their spectacular 111 game winning streak. UConn is a perennial powerhouse in women’s basketball, and has sent players like Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Stephanie Dolson, Tina Charles, Brea Hartley, Tamika Williams, Svetlana Abrasimova and others to the WNBA. The women’s professional league would be a very different place were in not for the feeder system emanating out of UConn basketball.
Last year, UConn women beat Mississippi State by 60 points. SIXTY POINTS.
But not on Friday night. Mississippi State defeated UConn 66-64, the buzzer beater shot made by Mississippi point guard Morgan William, who is all of 5’5″. Mississippi State now advances to the Sunday evening championship game against South Carolina.
Games like this are what make March Madness so much fun. The games are one-and-done, not best-three-of-five. Over five games, the stronger team will usually win. But over a single game, any team can win on any day, despite long odds.
Sports analogies to life can be overdone, but I think this one-and-done example is a good one. Not long after Jerry died, I was embroiled in a tense real estate negotiation with a national developer. I was negotiating for our investors from a place of extreme weakness overall — I lacked Jerry’s expertise in this area, the national developer had much more firepower to bring than I did, including deep political connections and influence, and I was still in grief and hardly thinking clearly. But I had one small advantage: because of the arcane rules of tax credits, if the developer was going to do the refinancing, he could only do it with my cooperation and a good return for our investors. He literally couldn’t walk away. Deal with me, or no deal. The tense and bitter negotiation went right down to the wire, to within 24 hours of the expiration of the opportunity, but at the last moment the deal was struck.
This was strictly a one-game scenario: there are no other circumstances under which I’d have prevailed against this developer.
The analogy isn’t exact, but I think it’s close enough. What it says to me is that asymmetrical power matters, even if it doesn’t always prevail.
Morgan William probably won’t get a WNBA bid; she’s too short for the professional game. But she’s going to have this one titanic moment to look back on in her basketball career. And she carries forward a very useful piece of knowledge about how to tilt the playing field in the larger game of life. That’s a lot to get out of a college education and a commitment to play DI extracurricular sports.