For what amounts to a moment -- for 40 minutes of basketball on Friday night, and then for the ensuing 48 hours where the UMBC Retrievers were all the sports world could talk about -- they made us believe.

This is not an easy thing in America 2018. We are a place bereft of idealism, where our government institutions are presumed to be as corrupt as our amateur athletics system. Snark rules the day and poisons our souls. The system seems stacked against the little guy.

It was into that toxic milieu that the UMBC Retrievers -- the littlest of little guys, the 16-seed against the No. 1 overall seed, the team with the 5-8-in-heels point guard, K.J. Maura, who announcer Bill Raftery described as "110 pounds and the rest is heart" -- marched on Friday night.

They marched into Charlotte's Spectrum Center as less than an afterthought. They were a sacrificial lamb served up to a Virginia team that boasted a historically great defense and had only lost two times all season. They were a cool story about a former VCU guard, Jairus Lyles, who transferred back to his hometown and then hit a wild 3-pointer in the America East Conference title game to secure his school its second-ever NCAA Tournament bid.

And that was where it was supposed to end. That's what three decades of NCAA Tournament history has told us to believe. The record is 0-135: That's how 16-seeds had fared in the men's NCAA Tournament. We thought that, someday, maybe, probably, that could change. But none of us believed that Friday night would be the night.

Until Friday night came, and we were taught to believe.

On Sunday night, the Retrievers marched out of Charlotte's Spectrum Center. They had not become the first 16-seed to beat a 9-seed (even though they were the first 16-seed to play a 9-seed). They lost, and they lost in a brutally ugly basketball game. It was a 50-43 loss to Kansas State, and although it was an awful game – UMBC shot less than 30 percent from the field, Kansas State shot 8 percent from three, each team had seemingly a million turnovers – it was fun, because until the final minute, we could still believe that their most improbable dream was alive.

I suppose we could think of UMBC as a flash in the pan. As Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes," so perhaps K.J. Maura and Jairus Lyles and Joe Sherburne and Arkel Lamar and Daniel Akin will someday be thought of as no different than Dunk City and Vanilla Ice and Kosuke Fukudome and Buster Douglas and Vince Young: People who briefly did something special (or at least briefly became famous) but quickly faded away.

I hope not.

That 40-minute basketball game was all the biggest sports clichés rolled into one: Don't count out the little guy. You still gotta play the game. Beware a team that's playing with house money.

And most of all, it was this: If you want to win, you must believe that you can win.

"We're giving hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," Maura said after Sunday night's loss. "I think we're giving hope to guys that are not even that tall, like me. People that feel like they're underdogs in their life, I think we've given the hope to everything they want to do in life.

"Outside of ourselves nobody thought we were going to win ... It's going to live forever for UMBC."

The UMBC Retrievers, for one special night, made us believe in what was supposed to be impossible.

In a world where belief is a rare commodity and where the little guy so often has the decks stacked against him, that's a belief worth bottling up and keeping in our cupboards forever.

Even if, in a basketball sense, that belief died within 48 hours.