Sunday, April 11, 2021

These Zags were vaccine for the soul

| April 7, 2021 1:00 AM

Thirty-two times since Nov. 26, the Gonzaga Bulldogs took the court.

Thirty-one times they won. Twenty-nine times they posted double-digit victories, almost never leading their fans to sweat or fret.

These Zags were chasing the college basketball equivalent of immortality, not just trying to win the program’s first national championship, but doing so undefeated. Since the dawn of the 64- and 68-team fields, that had never been done.

And it still hasn’t.

While countless fans are still stuck in the funk of Monday night’s loss to Baylor — the only imperfection in an otherwise perfect masterpiece — we see things a bit differently. We view the season as a precious whole that helped sustain many thousands of us at a time we really needed some kind of sustenance.

While the pandemic last spring killed the NCAA Tournament altogether, it raged yet again through the 2020-21 basketball season. Holidays were derailed by the virus. Anxiety from a nation-dividing election polluted the very air we breathe. A riot at our nation’s capitol brought the country to its knees.

Yet through it all, these Zags soared. They epitomized togetherness, unselfishness, excellence — hallmarks of our nation for two and a half centuries.

Through a cold and fearful winter, they kept us warm and gave us hope. They reminded us, over and over and over again, that we can win in life not just while having fun, but because we’re having fun.

To Coach Mark Few, Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme, Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert, Andrew Nembhard and all the others, thank you. We will never forget this magnificent season and the light it provided through the darkness.