|Louisville players advanced to the Final Four in honor of Kevin Ware, who broke his leg during the game. (boston.com)|
The country shuttered at the sight of it. CBS stopped showing replays, and for good reason. It was the kind of sight that makes your stomach churn and your body hurt at the thought of it.
It didn't matter what happened up until that point in the Louisville/Duke game because it wouldn't compare to what was witnessed on live TV at the 6:33 mark of the first half.
Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware jumped to contest a shot on a Duke shooter, a standard play, and when he landed, his leg broke in two places and the bone had protruded from his skin. It was a gruesome and horrific sight that is a thankfully seldom but unfortunate consequence of playing sports. Ware was taken off on a stretcher and to a local hospital for surgery. All the while his teammates, coaches and everyone watching had to recover and finish the game.
His teammates and coaches were visibly shook up. Tears ran down faces and the game was far behind the concern for their friend's health in their minds. The game could have unfolded in two ways; either the effect of the injury and nine-minute delay put the Cardinals in an understandable fog and their heads would not come back in the game, or they would come out fighting for the player who could no longer be on the court with them and keep the season alive.
That's what Ware wanted. He kept saying so while lying on the court. His leg was broken in two places and he just kept telling his team to win. Lousiville did win, 85-63, out scoring the Blue Devils 50-31 in the second half after being only up three at halftime. Russ Smith had a team-high 23 points while Gorgui Dieng chipped in 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Out of a horrific incident came the inspiration that sports can provide. Louisville players saved an open seat on the bench for Ware after he left for the hospital and celebrated with his jersey after the game. Ware's team rallied behind him and did not mask how painful it was for them to see him lying on the court.
The bond of teammates is strong. These guys spend nearly every day together, growing as basketball players and men. Regardless of alliances, it was difficult not to appreciate the Cardinals playing for their teammate who was on everyone's mind in the second half.
Just like their warmup shirts, Louisville rose to the occasion and out of a negative consequence of sport came a powerful benefit of being a team.