Iowa basketball: A challenge bigger than any game

Glory in sports most often comes from a sterling record in the win/loss column, or a trail of championship trophies of all kinds in tow. Because everybody loves a winner.

The passion and investment of fans has turned games into almost a tangible part of their lives. They’ve been known to give those watching the greatest feelings of elation in victory, and also enough devastation in defeat to bring a person to tears. While I believe that I’ve outgrown the latter of those two sentiments (fingers crossed), I still surely understand them.

The nip-and-tuck struggles, the overtimes, the buzzer-beaters, and those one shining moments have at times blurred the line between the game and real life. When that happens it usually takes  some unforeseen event to create the realization that one will always hold precedent over the other.

Enter Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery.

For the vast majority of the Hawkeyes’ now complete 2013-14 season the primary focus of everyone involved with the program was to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Through a thrilling first half of the year and a second filled with ups and downs on the court, Iowa managed to get itself into the field of 68, if only just barely.

Despite an early exit from March Madness, a shocking family development had already jumped to the forefront of McCaffery’s mind before the season ever came to a close.

As most followers of the Iowa program have heard and read, McCaffery’s 14 year-old son Patrick had a tumor removed from his thyroid the morning of Iowa’s “First Four” match-up with Tennessee in Dayton, Ohio. After traveling back and forth to both be with his family for the surgery and his team for its game that night, McCaffery informed the public two days later that the tumor was malignant.

Just like that, the outcome of a five month basketball season was rendered insignificant.

The vast majority of us have at some point had to deal with someone we know receiving the news that they have cancer. As gut-wrenching and deflating of a feeling as many know it to be, hearing that someone else has to cope with the same scenario can hurt almost as much.

No desire for a championship trophy and the rewards it brings could possibly supplant a father's love for his son.

No desire for a championship trophy and the rewards it brings could possibly supplant a father’s love for his son.

As is the family’s right, the McCaffery’s have not released further information on the precise severity of the cancer or what treatment options are being considered. I wouldn’t dare speculate on how optimistic or dire the situation might be, but I will do my best to further promote the central idea of this post.

As important as sports may be to us, they will always pale in comparison to family and the gift of life itself.

For all who would like to, please send your thoughts and prayers to Patrick and the entire McCaffery family. Also keep in mind that so long as this difficult ordeal continues and in the years to come thereafter, Fran McCaffery will go first and foremost by the title of “Dad” instead of “Coach.”

McCaffery has often been criticized and ridiculed for his sideline demeanor during his tenure in Iowa City, but at the present time fans would be wise to hope that young Patrick can attack his battle against cancer with the same type of passion and ferocity displayed by his father.

All of Iowa City is behind the McCaffery family in this difficult time, and will be cheering on Patrick in his fight far more than they ever could for their team on the basketball court.

And that’s just the way it should be.

  • flabongo

    Good stuff, Tanner.

  • John Clemons