Villanova men’s basketball is the number one seed overall for the NCAA tournament. I can’t help but think back on my times at Villanova and feel such a surge of pride every time my Alma Mater has a team go dancin’ in March. We won the whole thing last year. I watched it in Arizona. This year, the Final Four is in Arizona. I could potentially be watching the Final Four in Arizona again. Isn’t that crazy? Actually, no, it’s not crazy. It’s well-deserved.
I met and interacted with Jay Wright a few times over the course of my four years at Villanova, and that man deserves every success that comes to him and his team. I’d often cross paths with him walking through the quad between Sheehan and Sullivan, but there were a few times I got to interact with him one-on-one. I’ve been an early riser my entire life, and the most meaningful interactions I got to have with Coach Wright were because of my tendency to wake up early. I took 8:30 classes every year of college because I liked to start my day off learning. Funny how some things never change. Things everybody knows about Jay Wright: he is obviously a sharp dresser with great style (see GQ magazine), he’s a pretty fantastic coach, and he's the coach of the reigning National Champions. What most people don’t know about him, which I got to experience first-hand, is that he is kind, gracious, and humble. When he first came to Villanova to coach, it wasn’t easy for him. I remember one of my professors brought a guest speaker into my Sports Journalism class, and she proceeded to tell us stories of how Coach Wright would go to the cafeterias and beg students to come to games because they couldn’t fill the bleachers. Nowadays, however, and even during my time at ‘Nova (they went to the Final Four my freshman year), you’d have to beg people to get you tickets so you could go.
Villanova’s seal bears the words ‘Veritas, Unitas, Caritas.’ These words are the core values of the Catholic school with respect to its Augustinian tradition. I was back on campus a year ago for two of my closest friends’ wedding, but I can’t remember if the same banners, bearing those words, still hang. Come to think of it, they might have been replaced with the new “Ignite Change, Go Nova” banners, but I digress. Regardless, they still remain part of the seal, as well as in the hearts of those who have graduated and those who are currently in attendance.
Veritas, Unitas, Caritas… Truth, Unity, Love.
That Villanova basketball is having so much success does not come as a surprise to me. Pursuit of truth, formation of community, and personal dignity and integrity is what Villanova culture is all about, which is what Coach Wright instills in his players on (and off) the court. Recently, a video clip of Josh Hart was heavily featured on numerous sports outlets. In the clip, Josh consoles Angel Delgado of Seton Hall after Angel had missed the game-tying shot of the Big East Tournament Semifinals (it was a nail-biter of a game, and Delgado was beside himself). To me it’s not surprising that Josh Hart would show such sportsmanship to his opponent. That is what Villanova University teaches its students. What is surprising to me, however, is how big a deal everyone made of the gesture. (For the record - I’m glad it got the coverage it did.)
Ugliness has become the expectation in our culture: petty Twitter feuds, celebrity gossip, professional athletes not honoring their romantic relationships or commitments, broken marriages, you name it - for some reason, it’s what sells. But those people and that ugliness should not be admired. That’s why something genuinely kind like Josh Hart consoling an upset opponent became such a featured, albeit briefly, story. But that’s not how life or our culture should be. Consoling someone who’s hurting, taking the high road, doing the right thing - these acts should be what’s expected in the world. It shouldn’t be refreshing to see someone do good; people should do good and treat others well as the default. The negative acts people commit should be the thing that’s surprising. And those acts should not be rewarded with media coverage and extra attention. Kindness and genuine acts should be given the attention.
I was not raised Catholic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t truly believe in the message of Truth, Unity, and Love. Those are universal ideas that should be upheld. Would the world be worse off if everyone was more honest and tried to pursue truth? Would the world be worse off if people found common ground to build community? Would the world be worse off if people held themselves to a higher standard of integrity and personal responsibility? You don’t have to believe in a greater or higher power to pursue truth, try to unify people, or be an honorable person. Those three Latin words - Veritas, Unitas, Caritas - are as old as the dead language in which they are written. They’ve been around a long time. Longer than you or I could comprehend.
So, regardless of who or what you believe in, what if everyone tried to live life with respect to those ideals? Let’s all be more honest with each other; let’s try to find common ground while still respecting our differences; and let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard of integrity, which can only inspire others to do the same, spreading that message of love.
And let’s all cheer on Villanova as they pursue their truth and hopefully achieve what so many others think they cannot.
\V/s UP! Go ‘Nova!!