Congratulating University of Connecticut Huskies for Winning 2004 Ncaa Division I Men and Women's Basketball Championships -- (House of Representatives - May 04, 2004)
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio for yielding me this time. I would like to associate myself with his remarks and those of my colleague from the Second Congressional District in Connecticut. We are indeed so proud in Connecticut; in fact, you could say that we are in a state of euphoria with the outstanding achievement by the men's and women's basketball teams. Randy Smith, the great sports journalist for the Journal Inquirer in Connecticut and perhaps one of the greatest sportswriters in this country, remarked, "The poets contend that April is the cruelest of months, but the poets never met Diana Taurasi or Emeka Okafor or the UConn Huskies."
What an extraordinary time this was. What exemplary teams, the kids that participated and played on those teams, their coaches and, of course, the great fans of Connecticut. Connecticut was able to overcome in so many respects what is commonly referred to as a curse at the start of a season when they were both named preseason to be the number one teams in men's and women's basketball respectively. So to have that burden placed on you and that expectation at the outset of a season is quite a challenge. You immediately become the target of what in collegiate sports has become the most competitive of our sports, basketball. As was noted by the gentleman from Ohio, when you look at March Madness and see how it reverberates in this Chamber and throughout the country, you get to understand and appreciate the enormous task that these kids faced and their coaches in their fulfillment of a dream that was extraordinary.
I further would like to acknowledge the teams that they played against as well. The majesty that we have come to know as collegiate athletics is such that the victories that you achieved are enhanced by the competition that you play along the way.
In the Final Four, both Minnesota and Tennessee distinguished themselves as outstanding teams in that tournament on their way to the women's Final Four, two teams that Connecticut was able to defeat. By defeating them, because of the competition and because of the great play and the heart of both of those teams makes the Connecticut victory even greater. The same is true in the men's game, with victories over both Duke, an extraordinary program in history and college basketball, and Georgia Tech. Both teams played extraordinarily throughout the tournament. Again, Connecticut's victory is only that much greater by the competition that it faced and the wins they were able to achieve during those games.
I would like to also point out that the great poet, Arthur O'Shaughnessy, used to say, "For each age there are dreams that are fading and dreams that are coming to birth." The dream is now fading as we had a huge parade in Connecticut with more than 350,000 people pouring out to see our victorious champions, but it is also one that is coming to birth as child after child, as I observed the parade, could hear them cry out and point out to their mothers and fathers, there's Diana Taurasi, there's Emeka Okafor, there's Ben Gordon, there's Coach Auriemma, there's Coach Calhoun. They become full of the same kind of dreams that these coaches and athletes were able to execute on the courts.
And we think, quite frankly, without putting undue pressure on them that they will be able to continue to perform at the highest of levels.
I especially want to acknowledge two people who know more about the ups and downs of this team, the ins and outs of Connecticut basketball, who, in fact, live it daily, and I guess one could say nightly as well. They often do not get the credit that they deserve and perhaps are not mentioned as frequently as they should be as well, but we can see them nightly in the stands watching and observing; and with each steal, with each turnover, with each made basket and blocked shot, their aspirations and those for the team that they root for go up and down with the great fans of Connecticut.
But they are also notable for what they do beyond the basketball court and their countless contributions to charitable organizations, and I am referring, of course, to the spouses, Pat Calhoun and Kathy Auriemma, and I want to especially salute them.
Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio for yielding me this time.
I again want to join with my colleagues in what is a euphoric day for us to be on this floor. I see the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Isakson) is here, and I just wanted to again commend the
team from Georgia Tech that did beat us at the very start of this year, and we learned from that experience, and I do think that what we have witnessed here in this country, there is such a great love for collegiate sports throughout the country, and rightfully so, at all levels and in all sports. But I think we have established a new standard here, and it is something that I think is historic, and that is why these victories themselves present one for the ages.
Just like we had Ruth's 60 home runs, the DiMaggio hitting streak, the UCLA 10 basketball championships, the men's American hockey team victory over Russia, this standard that has been set where both the division one men and women's team win successively on back-to-back nights, national championships will become the new standard for all collegiate sports to aspire to, especially, as is in the case of basketball, where both men and women's teams play.
So this is an exceptional accomplishment. For the women, as has been pointed out by both the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) and the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays), the outstanding job that they have done to do this three times in a row and to have the fifth championship that the Geno Auriemma has been able to bring home to the State, extraordinary, and Jim Calhoun's second championship as well. This truly was one for the ages. It is one that we will truly enjoy and appreciate long throughout our lives and only can aspire to try to achieve that goal again, but what a goal and what a standard to strive for.
And the academic success of our athletes should be pointed out as well. The gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro) mentioned that Emeka Okafor was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and indeed he was and demonstrated that time and time again, but he also is an example for all students all across this country about academic excellence. Graduating in 3 years with a 3.7 grade average speaks highly of the quality of the individuals that come to the University of Connecticut, participate in their athletics program, and succeed in the manner that Emeka Okafor has as well. So it is a wonderful tribute to a great university, to a tremendous State, and I am just honored to be on the floor here this afternoon with our colleagues to talk about that.