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DeCuire for column

Montana coach Travis DeCuire enjoys a happy moment with senior Fabijan Krslovic (right) while teammates Bobby Moorehead (left) and Timmy Falls (behind) gather after the Big Sky Conference tourney title game last weekend in Reno, Nevada.

MISSOULA — There's a painful, unavoidable truth about sports.

It goes for a lot of athletes, coaches and fans:

Horrific losses tend to stick in your head even longer than glorious wins.  

So it goes for Griz Nation in 2018.

My most pleasant memory came nine months ago in an old gambling town called Reno, Nevada.

The smell of stale cigarette smoke as I walked through the casinos, the creepy feeling outside those casinos as I walked to the Big Sky Conference basketball tournament at night, the two days of barfing after catching a nasty bug, I'd do it all again. All for the chance to relive that moment when confetti fell from the rafters at the Reno Events Center in honor of a white-and-maroon-clad bunch that was money at crunch time.

My most treasured memories of the entire year involve the Montana men's basketball team fighting from behind three days in a row in Reno. The unlikely OT win over Northern Colorado in the semifinals is especially vivid in my mind.

In case you forgot, the Grizzlies erased a six-point deficit with one minute left in regulation. The score was knotted with 1.8 ticks left in the fourth frame when the Bears' Tanner Morgan missed a pair of free throws, either one of which probably would have sent Montana to the NIT.

Instead the Grizzlies survived.

"Sometimes it takes luck to win a conference ...," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said after that game. " ... We've been lucky all year but we've put ourselves in position for that."

See, now that's the kind of memory that should be foremost in my mind as 2018 comes to a close. How often does something so grand happen to Griz Nation?

Yet try as I might, the memory of Montana's run to the NCAA tourney doesn't thrill me as much as the Grizzlies' home football loss to Montana State haunts me. It's like a fungus that won't go away.

It's not so much I feel bad for the players. I've spent my fair share of time as a beat writer traveling around with Division I teams, so I know these young men are mostly kids at heart. Kids who can suffer a devastating loss and be goofing off on a bus 30 minutes later.

Maybe it has something to do with me being middle-aged. Losses, like pulled muscles, take longer to heal when you're in your 50s.

At the risk of a fungal flare-up, allow me to remind you the Griz had that battle won. Had it won until Montana State pulled its little "Mother May I" trick, calling a timeout that forced the Grizzlies to score a TD twice. Which didn't happen because of a fumble.

Something has to be done about that rule. When guys line up for a play or a field goal, that's it. Game on. No do-overs. No non-athletes on the sidelines deciding the outcome because they strategically form a sideways T with their hands, compelling officials to call off a battle.

Like Max Taber says during a spirited game of Monopoly in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest:" "Play the game, Harding."

Yeah, play the game Bobcats.

Oh I know, I really need to get past this. Like Bill Walton says in his Pac-12 basketball broadcasts, save me from myself.

Maybe the only way to heal is to trust in what I know about Bobby Hauck, who just put the finishing touches on his 2018 Griz football recruiting class. He's getting more and more big-framed youngsters who will spend a lot of time in the weight room this winter.

Something tells me we're headed for a memorable 2019, courtesy of the Montana football, men's basketball and women's basketball teams.

I just wish someone could change that Griz-Cat football channel in my head.

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Bill Speltz is the Deputy Sports Editor of the Missoulian. Email him at bill.speltz@406mtsports.com.

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