We watch the NCAA tournament for the buzzer beaters, NBA prospects, Cinderella stories, and the sweet, sweet memes. Two years ago, Roxanne Chalifoux, better known as “Villanova crying piccolo girl,” became teary as she realized that Nova would be upset in an early round (glad to see they worked on that). It was endearing and adorable, and the internet relentlessly repurposed it to the point where Chalifoux later felt the need to say, “My friends and family supported me through it all.”
Fast forward two tourneys later, in the second half of a second-round game between Northwestern and Gonzaga, with the former chipping away at an unlikely comeback against the 1-seed. With less than eight minutes to go, the cameraman landed on the only person in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena more emotionally invested in Northwestern than Chris Collins (a technical in his near future) or more animated than Julia Louis-Dreyfus. There he was: a kid, decked out in Northwestern purple, the son of Wildcat athletic director Jim Phillips. And in the grand tradition of Bobby Knight, Doc Rivers, Draymond Green, and sports fans everywhere, this little man thought the foul call against the Cats was just ridiculous.
All at once — and by all at once, I mean more than half a dozen times — the camera captured his complete devastation. Eyes brimming with tears and arms flailing in objection, wee Phillips yells, “Oh my god,” and “This is so bad!” After a day or two of snooze-worthy games, the internet was given a nugget from the crowd to hoist up, Lion King–style, into virality.
The poor guy didn’t even come out of the day with a win. A half hour later, Gonzaga would advance, 79–73, ending Northwestern’s first-ever tournament appearance — an inconsolable experience, especially for someone under 15. But for Phillips, the future is bright. After Chalifoux’s virality, she went on The Tonight Show and had a bobblehead of herself made.
Do you hear what I’m saying, lil’ Phillips? You could meet the Roots! Dry those eyes — you could have retailers like Walmart carry miniatures of you in stock two years from now! Maybe a team will defeat Northwestern in a future tourney game, and they will use your tears to deal a low blow on Twitter! On first read, that sounds awful, but look closer — “in a future tourney game.” Chin up, kid. If nothing else, you gave the internet what it so desperately wanted out of the first week of March Madness: A meme.
What? Was I supposed to say basketball?