No F*#ing way

Who the hell was George Mason?

From USA TODAY editorial page, 28 March 2006:

Final Four's Founding Father

George Mason hasn't gotten this much attention in more than 200 years.

The man that is, not the upstart basketball team that has put his name in headlines over the past two weeks by upsetting some of the NCAA's biggest names.

Mason was a Virginia planter who came out of retirement to provide a much-needed contrarian view at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Fortunately for Americans today, he was just as good at beating the odds as the team that made history Sunday by becoming the first No. 11 seed in 20 years to reach the NCAA tournament's Final Four.

Mason was among those who opposed adopting the draft constitution because it had no language to protect individual rights. They failed at first. But the Declaration of Rights Mason had written into Virginia's constitution 11 years earlier became the model for the Bill of Rights that was adopted in 1791 as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. It became Americans' guarantee of free speech, free association, religious liberty and all our other fundamental freedoms.

Had Mason been as successful on a second priority, the country might also have avoided its greatest trauma. He strenuously opposed including in the Constitution the infamous compromise that allowed the slave trade to continue until 1808. Mason denounced slave labor as "disgraceful to mankind" and urged its end. It took a bloody Civil War more than 70 years later to end slavery, and the nation is still living with its legacy.

Abolishment of slavery and adoption of a Bill of Rights might not have been a 4 million-to-1 shot — as USA TODAY's sports analyst Danny Sheridan put the Patriots' chances at the beginning of the NCAA tournament. But at the time, they probably weren't as good as Monday's 6-1 odds.

By naming a new state university after Mason in 1972, Virginia paid belated tribute to one of the least remembered of the major figures among the Founding Fathers.

Whatever happens in the Final Four this weekend, Mason's name should now besynonymous with against-the-odds perseverance and success.