OPINION: Missing out on a most-special moment

Steve Rogers
Staff Writer
I once celebrated a New York Yankees World Series title at a ticker-tape parade down Broadway with hundreds of thousands of other Yankees fans. I once greeted the Alabama Crimson Tide when it returned home from a bowl game after winning a national title. I’ve been in a stadium when the Dallas Cowboys were crowned Super Bowl champions. 
But of all those moments, I perhaps missed one even more meaningful, Sunday night’s triumphant return of the Mississippi University for Women’s basketball team as champions of the United State Collegiate Athletic Association Women's Division 1 basketball. 
While it may have paled in comparison in terms of crowds and noise and spectacle, I suspect it more than made up for it in passion, emotion and pure sports. 
When former MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig and others made the decision four years ago to bring athletics back to the historic university, they did so with an idea that it was the missing piece in turning The W back into the “complete” college it once was, a place where students enjoyed every aspect of the college experience. 
It was a way to bring a new set of students to the campus and give ones already there one more thing to cheer for, be proud of and take part in. 
I doubt he envisioned moments of glory or national championships. He told me as much last year when he gleefully attended the USCAA’s version of its world series for both baseball and softball. He was like a proud father as he watched then university’s first-year softball and baseball teams finish fifth in the country in those World Series. 
It provided a taste of the excitement yet to come. 
The USCAA doesn’t claim to be the NCAA. But it is a solid stepping stone to joining that group, a place where small schools can compete against each other. It’s motto is “leveling the playing field” for its members. 
It doesn’t produce huge crowds or big financial pay outs or TV contracts. Pro scouts aren’t meeting players outside the locker room. 
It just produces cherished — priceless — moments for the athletes who play only for the love of the game. 
That’s what would have made being in front of Pohl Gym Sunday night so special. The young women getting off that bus were true examples of amateur student athletes. 
West Point’s Qiayon Bailey may have said it best when she described how she looked for a college where she could get a good education. Playing her favorite sport, basketball, was a bonus. 
When Coach Howard White told them at the start of the year their goal was a national championship, he was called “crazy.” Pretty soon, they were all “crazies” believing in the impossible. 
Now they have something no one can take from them, Those are the kind of stories that give true meaning to sports and athletics and the young men and women who play them. 
Who knows whether MUW will bring home big titles when it transitions into NCAA Division III next year. 
But the athletes who already have put the school in the national spotlight, albeit small, have set the stage for potential greatness one day and brought a new spirit to a special place. 
It’s an unparalleled excitement, a kind of emotional electricity and deep personal sense satisfaction they will carry with them a lifetime.
Steve Rogers is the news reporter for the Daily Times Leader. The opinions expressed in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper or its staff.