Plenty of talking heads have bemoaned this year's NCAA tournament. No Cinderellas, they cry. No George Masons. Borrrrring.
I don't get that at all, but if you're one of those complainers, you need only focus your attention on the Frozen Four, coming soon to a Verizon Center near you and starring Bemidji State as Cinderella. From the Grand Rapids Press:
Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore compared beating Cornell and making the Frozen Four to Rocky Balboa or the George Mason University basketball team that played in the 2006 Final Four.
"This is what the sport needs and it's good for it," he said. It gives everyone out there a good feeling that it can be them some day."
And George Mason went to the Final Four from which arena? Oh yeah, that's right. Also, if the Beavers win the national championship, the WSJ says they might become the biggest Cinderella in the history of collegiate sports. Bigger than Howard over Oregon State, even.
And if you thought there wasn't a D.C. sports connection, think again: Rachel Becker, the Caps' game entertainment coordinator, is a proud Bemidji grad (class of '06). Like, extremely proud. Like, yesterday, she wore a BSU ring, Beavers necklace, Bemidji pin, and Bemidji-green business suit, while proudly displaying her Bucky the Beaver bobblehead and her signed Bemidji sweater. Why such joy?
"You have to understand, when I went to Bemidji, I did not know much about hockey," she told me. "I started going to games, fell in love with the sport and it became my passion. Hence, why I'm working here. The coaches there kind of saw that I had a passion for the sport before even I knew it, and they kind of took me under their wing and encouraged me to pursue a job in sports."
"Passion" seems an apt word. She took an ice hockey coaching class. She traveled to Robert Morris and Niagara this year to see Bemidji road games. She went to Philly over the weekend to watch Rob Sirianni, a former Bemidji star. She filled out two brackets that are posted on her cubicle; one, the "Dream Bracket," had a Frozen Four of Bemidji, Minnesota-Duluth (a rival), North Dakota (another rival) and Air Force, whose coach, Frank Serratore, is the brother of Bemidji's Tom.
"So by default, I was cheering for him too," Rachel told me.
The president of the university e-mailed her after the Beavers' win, and she offered up the lyrics for the school's fight song, including three "Rah Rah Rahs." (Lyrics: Go Bemidji Beavers,
Go you Green and White. Go Bemidji Beavers, Fight with all your might."
There is, as of yet, no D.C. alumni club for the Beavers, but Rachel expects a healthy infusion of Bemidji fans as the semifinals approach. I asked her if she'd be going to a lot of Bemidji parties.
"What do you mean?" she replied. "I'm planning them."
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