Opinion: Stanford’s title culmination of hard roads weeks, decades and generations in making

Opinion: Stanford’s title culmination of hard roads weeks, decades and generations in making

April 5, 2021

SAN ANTONIO — This title was the culmination of a long, hard road. Several of them, actually.

For Tara VanDerveer, it had been 29 years since she was able to beam with pride while watching her Stanford team cut down the nets. For her current players, it was a 90-day road trip that seemed even longer, living out of suitcases and hotel rooms like nomads so the COVID-19 pandemic wouldn’t steal yet something else.

And for everyone in the women’s game, it was three weeks of countering the NCAA’s disrespect, first with words and then with deeds, and having to explain to people who don’t get it or don’t care to why equity and optics matter.

So if Stanford smiled a little brighter, reveled a little louder, stayed on the floor a little longer, the Cardinal were entitled to all of it.

“This is the time we live in. Sometimes you just have to stick with things,” VanDerveer said Sunday, after top-seeded Stanford had held off Pac-12 rival Arizona 54-53 for its third national title, and first since 1992.

There’s a lesson there bigger, even, than the trophy the Cardinal will be bringing back to Stanford.

VanDerveer talked about the heartache she felt for those other teams that had come close, and the injuries that often derailed them. That wears on you, no matter how long you’ve been in a game or how much you love being a teacher. Her players are like family, and when they fall short of their dream, it cuts her just as deeply.

To have it happen again and again, to watch as the gap closed between the great programs and the good ones, it would have been easy – understandable, really – if she’d decided at some point that her list of accomplishments was long enough.

Just as it would have been easy for this year’s team to crumble under the restrictions dictated to them by COVID.

Stanford was not allowed to play home games because of local COVID restrictions. But the players still wanted to play, so the Cardinal spent the entire season on the road. They went to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. They practiced at the Golden State Warriors facility and in a gym with wooden backboards.

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