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It's the dirty little secret of this profession.

Being a sports journalist can sometimes suck the joy out of watching sports events.

It's the nature of the business.

Most folks get into sports journalism for one simple reason — they love sports.

They love the competition, they love the athleticism and they love the drama.

There are just a few problems.

First, once you actually become a sports journalist, you cease to be a sports fan, at least when you're actually covering an event.

In fact, the cardinal sin that any sports journalist can commit is actively rooting in the press box.

In addition, the day-to-day grind of constantly producing content and meeting deadlines can leave reporters more than a little jaded.

Finally, many of the stories you end up covering become less about athletic achievement and more about legal or ethical failures.

Not surprisingly, sports becomes a job and stops being a passion.

Then along comes a game such as Monday night's fantastic finish between Villanova and North Carolina.

Suddenly, all the reasons you got into this profession come flooding back.

The final few minutes of the NCAA men's basketball title game were nothing less than epic.

By now, almost everyone knows how the game ended.

Villanova blew a late 10-point lead. It looked like the Wildcats were toast when North Carolina's Marcus Paige buried an unlikely double-pump 3-pointer with less than five seconds left to tie the game at 74-74. Every ounce of momentum was with the Tar Heels. A North Carolina overtime triumph seemed like a mere formality.

But, in a classic case of one-upmanship, Villanova won the game with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Kris Jenkins that was a 30-foot dagger to the heart of Tar Heel Nation.

The Wildcats won, 77-74.

Unbelievable.

What made the game even better is that it had a ton of interest right here in York County.

Folks in the eastern part of the county can get to the small private Catholic school on the Main Line in less than 90 minutes.

North Carolina, meanwhile, has an unparalleled national brand in college basketball, much like Notre Dame in college football. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the Heels have more fans in York County than any other single college basketball program.

If the Heels had won, you can be sure you would've seen a boatload of North Carolina apparel gracing the streets of the greater York community.

Combine those factors and there is no doubt that hoop nuts throughout the county were up way past their bedtimes at nearly 11:30 p.m. Monday when Jenkins hit his shot for the ages.

After a finish like that, it was nearly impossible to go to bed. You just had to stay up and watch the celebration, the highlights and the interviews.

It was great theater, even if it did leave you exhausted on Tuesday morning.

It was a much-needed reminder that sports, at its best, is still the best reality show anywhere.

And it was also a shot in the arm that every cynical sports journalist desperately needed.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

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