MORGANTOWN — There is a price that is paid for success.
Normally, it comes in the form of simply sweat and the aches and pains that go with driving yourself to reach the top.
Sometimes, it is accompanied with tears.
West Virginia University’s Final Four basketball season was considered a success, perhaps as successful a year as any by any WVU major sports team since Jerry West led the 1959 team to the NCAA Finals.
You will recall there were tears then, too, Jerry West’s tears as his team lost to California by a single point.
Those, though, were different tears, not the kind that came this year.
In many ways, the tears this year bubbled to the surface in what should have been a celebration of that success, of winning the Big East championship, of beating Kentucky and coming within an eyelash of capturing the national crown.
There were the tears that came with Da’Sean Butler, who on Tuesday night at the team’s basketball banquet was announced as the team’s most valuable player for the second year in a row.
These were tears of joy, yes, for seldom has any player reached the levels Butler reached. He was the engine on one of the greatest teams the school has ever fielded. He was a warm, caring, wonderful figure, a student and an athlete. He gave of himself to others, for others.
Yes, to and for others. This is no me-first athlete going through life taking without giving back.
Who could ever forget what he did during the NCAA Tournament, just after the Mountaineers had beaten Kentucky? Word reached Butler then that a woman, Agnes Channel, 74, was in Ruby Memorial Hospital, having suffered a heart attack while watching the game.
Butler took it upon himself, following a pre-Final Four interview session, to visit Agnes Channel in the hospital.
“He sits with her for an hour after he’s done media things all day,” coach Bob Huggins said during a recent speaking engagement in Canton, Ohio. “He told her how we appreciate everything and the way she cared about West Virginia and West Virginia athletics.”
A few days later, on April 12, Agnes Channel died.
Butler made her passing a little bit easier for her with his visit.
A statewide hero, just coming back from knee surgery, Butler still managed to show up in Bridgeport to keep a promise to throw out the first ball of that league’s season.
No matter that he was on crutches, he showed and struggled to the mound and made the first pitch.
And when the catcher asked Butler to sign the ball, he refused, saying instead, “No, I want you to sign this ball so I can have it for my collection.”
What greater thrill could a kid have gotten than to have Da’Sean Butler ask him for his autograph?
That’s almost enough to make you tear.
Then finally, of course, there was the final nine minutes of his career, injured, trying to make a play while hopelessly down to Duke, pushing to perform some kind of miracle. He lay there on the floor in Indianapolis, writhing in pain, his career over, his future in doubt.
That’s how he was when Huggins reached him.
“When I went out to Da’Sean, he’s saying, ‘Huggs, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I played so bad. I’m sorry. I wanted to win this so bad for you,’” Huggins told the crowd in Canton, according to CantonRep.com.
“I said, ‘Man, we wouldn’t be here without you. You have nothing to feel sorry about. You should be very proud of what you’ve done.’ Here’s a guy laying there with a torn ACL, and he doesn’t say anything at all about his leg. He’s worried about not playing as well he wanted to play.
“I just told him, ‘I love you, man.’”
That brings tears, too.
But if you want to know where the real tears are, they come when you start thinking that the Mountaineers somehow failed to reach their final goal, that NCAA championship, and now Butler and Wellington Smith are gone and Devin Ebanks has left chasing his own, individual rainbow and Jonnie West, the link to the glory days who could have played one more season, also is leaving while seeking an advanced degree.
Yes, there is a price on success and when you think about it, it is a steep price indeed, yet every player that climbed that mountain this past year will tell you it was worth the price and then some, for they wound up proving themselves winners without taking home the final trophy.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.