INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville’s Kevin Ware acted instinctively. He did what he was taught. He did what he’d done countless of times throughout his basketball career. But this time was different.
Ware, exerting maximum effort with a chance to play in the Final Four — the ultimate childhood dream — vehemently challenged an open shooter on the wing. The result had a far worsening effect than a made 3-pointer. This was different.
As Ware collided with the hardwood surface, his leg buckled. Gruesomely, his limb lifelessly hung. Ware lay motionlessly in shock before succumbing to the inevitable pain. He had suffered as violent of an injury imaginable. This rivaled Joe Theismann’s compound fracture. This sent shivers down spectators’ spines like Willis McGahee’s broken leg. But this was different.
What transpired, however, is a testimony to the human spirit. It epitomized sports, character and compassion. It reassured that the night is darkest just before the dawn.
Louisville's Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Peyton Silva collapsed onto the court. It had struck them to the core. Behanan rolled, inconsolable, sheltering his emotion with his white jersey. This was different.
This was a friend. A teammate. A brother.
Heads lowered, emotions freely flowing, the Cardinals huddled together as the medical staff prepared the stretcher. Comforting one another, a prayer was needed. This was different.
A terrifying hush engulfed Lucas Oil Stadium. This was no longer simply a basketball game. Duke’s Tyler Thornton covered his eyes, distraught. Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski peered worryingly to the opposite end. This was different.
Cardinals’ coach Rick Pitino, brushing aside tears streaking beneath his heavy eyes, consoled his team. Fans clasped their hands and nervously masked their horror, and they, too, keeled in emotion. This was different.
Ware proceeded to the locker room, his disfigured leg concealed with white towels, to a standing ovation. The silence was over. Fans donning both colors paid tribute to a young man whose dream of playing in the Final Four was painfully stripped in an instant. This was an injury to be shared.
This was much more than the scoreboard. This was much more than Louisville or Duke. This was much more than a basketball game. This was different.
The light shall soon shine again. The extent of the aftereffects is unknown, but the power of the human soul is stronger. Far too often sports overshadow the true meaning of competition. On Easter Sunday, that meaning was replenished.
For 40 minutes, Louisville wore white and Duke wore blue. But as Ware exited the arena, it confirmed the reality.
There really is no difference.