â†µApologies for the Cinderella reference -- Butler's the meanest, toughest Cinderella this side of the fur-booted version from folklore -- but it's better than immediately telling you Shawn Vanzant's story fits into the The Blind Side paradigm. His story's moving enough on its own to not be tainted by a saccharine Sandra Bullock movie. â†µâ†µ
â†µBrett McMurphy of FanHouse deserves all the credit in the world for his excellent account of Vanzant's tale. Vanzant's biological mother died before he turned two, and his father (diabetes, finances, and arrests) and older brother (currently incarcerated for dealing cocaine) were in straits dire enough for Vanzant to spend a couple of nights sleeping in his car. Then Tommy Tonelli, Vanzant's coach at Tampa's Wharton High School, connected him with Lisa Litton. â†µâ†µ
â†µLitton took Vanzant in, and gave him the support he needed to earn a scholarship at Butler. Though each concedes a similarity to Michael Oher being taken in by the Tuohy family, Litton says the touching part of the movie was learning that "There are a lot of people that are willing, it's not just my common normal family." â†µâ†µ
â†µLitton's own story flies in the face of common and normal, though. She is currently fighting lupus, is in her third battle with cancer, and grew up mostly without her mother, who disappeared when she was six and never returned. For Litton, Vanzant's run with Butler has been sustenance for the spirit, but while her husband and two eldest sons made the trip to Indianapolis to see Vanzant play against Michigan State, she stayed in Florida to take youngest son Chase to an AAU tournament. â†µâ†µ
â†µNow, with Butler playing for a national championship, Litton will be in the stands to root her "fourth son" on for the first time since Butler played at Florida Gulf Coast in his freshman year. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe Vanzant/Litton story is so dramatic and stirring that it was hard to even write this up without it getting dusty in the room. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt's harder to imagine any non-Duke fans who hear about the Vanzant/Litton story rooting against Butler tonight. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.