Basketball fans, did you think your team would make it this far?

Or were your brackets busted early?

No matter what, there's something we need to settle.

Something we can agree on, even if you're for Duke.

How do you say this?

Is it torn-a-ment?

Or turn-a-ment?

And is it sports analysis virtue signaling for Clark Kellogg, Greg Gumbel, Seth Davis to say torn-a-ment as often as possible?

Does anyone else think it feels like they're paid a commission to say that word a certain number of times an hour?

I need to know.


I have a few questions.

Who is your favorite basketball team?

And are you a fair-weather fan? Or have you loved your team forever?

Do you yell at the TV? Or are you a quiet fan who covers your eyes and hopes for the best when your team steps up to the charity stripe?

Are you superstitious?

We are, sort of.

Chris eats pancakes.

Though this week, he substituted French toast.

I think we'll stick with it.

Do you wear lucky socks?

Or a favorite shirt?

I wear a blue coat.

It may feel like a sweatbox inside the Superdome, but I'll have the coat. Even if I have to drape her over the back of my seat, she's coming to the game.

What else?

Now that a bubble team has bubbled up, it looks like the blue bloods and new bloods will make this a spectacular final 4; what else is there to do?

Talk about one more thing.

The bench.

In their Carolina, Villanova, “Dook,” or Kansas sweats, the athletes that sit on it or just behind it.

The athletes you might shout orders to, like, "Hand me that towel, walk on."

Or the ones that make you say, who is that?

And why are they here?

Remember those kids because they want to get in the game, even if it's not their time, even if it's not their turn.

The bench is part of the team.

They helped the starters get ready.

They sweated through their practice jerseys just the same.

They put holes in their socks.

They have scars on their elbows and knees from diving to get the same ball the starters were after.

They want in, too.

Even if it's not their time.

Even if it's not their turn. 

This is the part that I finally understand.

There is tremendous value in sitting on the bench.

In answering questions. In thinking it through.

To that end, I have questions for the athlete who waits on the bench.

Do you like your sport?

Or, do you love it?

Do you love it enough to fight for your spot?

And earn your place?

Will you do whatever it takes to compete for a chance to win?

Which means, will you work your minutes? Whether it's basketball, volleyball, or lacrosse?

Will you work whatever chance you're given?

Or will you complain? And stay jealous of others' success?

Will you figure out that if they don't pass you the ball, sometimes it is you? Because you're a turnover machine. And you might want to work on your butterfingers.

Waiting takes a heavy dose of honesty and humility.

Waiting takes understanding.

It is understanding first that you're not a victim.

Instead, do you understand that you have an opportunity to figure things out?

To ask the questions only you can answer?

Like this. How hard do you work? Be honest.

Do you stay late? And arrive early?

Do you own your sport, gift or talent? Or are you doing this because your dad likes it and you absolutely love him? But you don't want to disappoint?

Are you there to please your mom? Because you adore her? Because she's driven you hither and yon. But you don't know how to tell her that you're lukewarm about the sport you're playing?

Answer these questions, and your sport is yours.

Answer these questions, and you have your WHY.

Which will fuel you while you wait.

And as you work.

Here it is.

Do you need your sport like you need air?

If so, will you wrestle it to the ground until you've conquered it?

Will you dominate your court?

Will you outwork everyone else?

Or will you prepare to leave?

Will you walk away without a scratch?

Without holes in your socks?

Without bruises on your knees?

The players on the bench for Villanova, Kansas, Duke, and UNC answered these questions.

Young athlete, what is yours?

I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.

-                                                                                                                       Kobe Bryant

Amie Beth Shaver is a speaker, writer, and media commentator - and this week a Mom whose son is a redshirt freshman on the UNC basketball team playing in the Final Four. Her column appears every Wednesday in 1819 News. Shaver served on the Alabama GOP State Executive Committee, was a candidate for State House 43 and spokeswoman for Allied Women. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to[email protected].