Kendall Marshall’s wrist, Creighton, and the #PassFir5t movement

Silly as it seems, especially to the generation of Carolina fans who do not use Twitter, I would be lying if I said I had not been tempted to draw a 5 on my right wrist. The #PassFir5t movement has grown so large that I will refrain from addressing it at length until we know its conclusion, but without question, the events of the past week related to Kendall Marshall’s broken wrist will be seared into the collective memory of Carolina basketball history.

It remains to be seen how large a place in that history it will eventually claim; that depends, of course, on whether he plays and whether we win. Needless to say, it has the potential to rightly make Marshall one of Carolina’s most memorable and beloved players ever. Part of the reason I wanted to draw that 5 reflects how great of a teammate and likeable of a guy Marshall is, and how genuinely he seems to draw support from the movement. It is one of those moments I wish I was experiencing as a student, or at least a North Carolina resident.

The whole spectacle has so many intersecting factors: the online campaign; Marshall’s likability and reaction to it; the emotion shown by his teammates and by Roy; the fixated attention of an entire fan base on the medical science of an obscure bone; the game Roy is playing with the media about Marshall’s status; the transformation of Creighton from random white-guy mid-major to dirty team. Two quick thoughts on the final two.

  • Roy’s handling of the situation should endear fans to him for all of the traits that make him Roy: he exudes confidence, competitiveness and pride while wrapping it the persona of down-home humility, and he inspires trust that he will have the team fired up and focused. But he is truly enjoying messing with the media and keeping Marshall’s status quiet; asked by the media for the factors that will determine his status, not for the status itself, Roy persisted in saying that he does not know. The media learned the factors from Marshall later in the week.
  • I’m glad Roy cooled down the criticism directed at Creighton over the weekend, since no team deserves its flaws to be inaccurately exaggerated. However, Carolina fans will be right to hold a permanent grudge against the Blue Jays. For one, such grudges are healthy for sports, and when you have a guy like Grant Gibbs (the winker) on your team, you are practically pulling a Duke – and asking for it. Secondly, while the particular foul that hurt Marshall was more mild than portrayed, the cumulative body of evidence – the uncalled push on Zeller that should have led to an ejection, the hacking at Henson’s wrist, the wink, the foul on Marshall, and the inexplicable reaction of the Omaha World-Herald – suggests a pattern of action that renders Creighton, and the Omaha college basketball community, definitively unlikable. Creighton, you can count on at least one opposing fan into perpetuity.

Finally, a few thoughts on the injury. The manner in which it unfolded and the ensuing post-game press conference were unlike anything I have ever experienced. Shannon and I went to the grocery store immediately after the game, so I found out after the fact when we returned. Reading back through my Twitter feed captured the abrupt change in mood: reporters announced Roy clearing them from the locker room, then heard rumors that it concerned Kendall, then heard that Kendall had broken his wrist.

Given the circumstances and his emotional nature, it shouldn’t have been surprising to see Roy choke up in the press conference, but it was still a surreal moment that was far from expected when the game ended. Watching Marshall answer so many questions, mention his teammates repeatedly, and show both his disappointment and his optimism offered a rare clear window into a truly likable player’s personality. There have been so many articles articulating what makes Marshall so unique on and off the court; it can suffice here to say that it was an unfortunate night, but it will be memorable for great reasons, regardless of the tournament’s outcome.

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