Of course I’m not talking about the MVC, the WCC, or the MAAC – or any of those conferences for which there is but one invitation to The Big Dance. These tournaments mean everything –perhaps too much, as a team that dominates its conference during regular season play can have one bad night and see its season go down the drain. Certainly there is drama of the highest kind in the alphabet soup conferences.
No, I’m talking here about the glamour conferences. The ones that dominate media coverage of college basketball. The ones that are amateur in name only. The home of “one and done” players putting in their time before heading to the NBA. The Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC. These conferences have traditionally sent at least four teams to the NCAA tournament each year, and as they’ve grown in size by engulfing major media market teams from smaller conferences, they’ve gained even more at-large bids.
One could argue that the drama for these conference tournaments has been usurped; pretty much every team with a decent record is going to the NCAAs. When you really get down to it, you could actually make the case that winning one of these tournaments is detrimental to a team’s chances for March Madness success. For example, no Big East team has won the NCAA title since the conference expanded to 16 teams and instituted a conference tournament that brings to mind the Bataan Death March. Coincidence?
I do not bring this up merely to watch myself type. I had a decision to make.
While I’ve had a few years to familiarize myself with the more obvious differences in the sexes, I had to admit that I’d never considered the question in the context of ice hockey. So when presented with the perfect opportunity to come up to speed on that topic, I jumped on it.
I had spent the previous night at a sold-out TD Garden, home of the tradition-laden Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics…and a pretty popular 59-year-old college hockey get-together they call the Beanpot.
On this night I was headed to Conte Forum, on the campus of Boston College, where I would experience that event’s little sister – the 33rd annual Women’s Beanpot.
It’s called the Beanpawt, and it’s held every February at The Gahden. As in “Oh my Gawd, I’m goin’ ovah to The Gahden for the Beanpawt!”
The alert reader will of course recognize that the sporting event du jour takes place in Boston, home of the hypnotic, syrupy sweet accent popularized by postman extraordinaire Cliff Clavin.
I had not been to the Gahden since it was the Boston Garden, i.e. before it became headlined by a series of financial services companies. To get there back in those days, you simply took either the Green or Orange line to North Station and then followed the rats.
If you were attending a game at that time, it was tremendously helpful if you were a “people person”, since you and your fellow fans were all going to be squeezing into seats that conformed to the size of the average Bostonian – the 1928 version. And of course you hoped like hell that it wasn’t an overly warm day, because there was no air conditioning in the building.
People loved this place. No, really – they did.
We were young. We were giddy.
Wait, let me start again…
We were giddy. Blame it on Sean McGonagill.
Doc and I were still basking in the glow of one of the most unexpected treats we’d ever witnessed on a college basketball court – a freshman tossing in 39 points over, under and around everyone in sight, while wearing headgear from the Hannibal Lecter Collection.
So it was only natural that the seedling of an idea that had been germinating for a few days began to sprout and ripen at an alarming rate. I’m talking Jack and the Beanstalk stuff.
A little background…
See, way back at the beginning of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour’s Winter Sports Swing, the first casualty of fickle weather had been a scheduled pilgrimage to Ithaca, NY, where through a sepia-toned lens I planned to vicariously re-live my own college basketball “playing” days, if I may be somewhat expansive when using that term.
There we were with 70 or 80 of our closest friends, on a night that a dog wouldn’t have sent us out into.
I was with old friend and hoops aficionado Doc, and we were making the best of a bad situation. Ice-stormed out of an originally scheduled pilgrimage to see Doc’s beloved Syracuse Orangemen play against Connecticut, we had opted for a somewhat less glamorous Division I basketball contest – an Ivy League game.
We were at Brown University’s Pizzitola Center, where the Bears were playing host to the Columbia Lions. Somewhere in there was a joke about tigers just begging to be cracked, but we were still a little despondent about the weather having forced us to stay close to Doc’s Pawtucket, RI home.
My friend Doc has worked for the Syracuse University Athletic Department for each one of the 34 years I’ve known him. But if you were to contact SU, they’d tell you they’ve never met him. They really should make the effort, for Doc has been the best unpaid PR agent the Orangemen have ever had.
Many years ago Doc relocated to New England for reasons of love and money, but that hasn’t deterred him from his appointed rounds as Diehard. Should anyone doubt his passion, consider the following…
Immediately upon moving to Rhode Island, Doc applied for and was delighted to receive license plates that read “ORANGE”. When the time inevitably came for him to get a new car, he did his research and negotiated a sweet deal on a leased vehicle. Except for one tiny thing. Almost as an afterthought, he was told that he wouldn’t be able to transfer his existing plates to the leased car.
Houston, we have a problem.
A team of diplomats worked through the night to find common ground, before the dealer finally caved in and agreed to tackle the administrative red tape necessary to keep Doc and his ORANGE plates together.
Hearing this story didn’t faze me (or anyone else who knows Doc) in the least.
As far as I know, never in the annals of misguided sports odysseys has this been done before. I refer, of course, to chronicling two sporting events at once.
Not two events in one day. That’s child’s play. Not two events in one day in two separate cities. Yawn…did it.
I’m talking two separate events in two different states. Simultaneously. You tell me one other person doing a sports walkabout that has pulled that off. I’ll wait…
Given that I’m a semi-trained, quasi-professional sports-watcher, this is a bit embarrassing to admit. But I have a plausible defense – nobody at the USC vs. UC Santa Barbara dual swim meet I attended recently ever made mention of a winning team. I wasn’t even positive they were keeping score.
Let me tell you about my day, and let you decide if I am guilty of Negligent Spectating…
First of all, I know I’ve previously gone on record proclaiming that ALL aquatic events should be conducted outside – but I was young and foolish then. It was the sunshine and 75 degrees talking. It was now January however, and I was wearing layers to an outdoor aquatic event. Be careful what you ask for.
Consider this: Almost every single organized sport known to man plays their exhibition games at the beginning of the season. College football chooses to do so at the end. Why?
First, what else are they going to do in the absence of real live playoffs? You know, the kind that virtually every other organized sport engages in?
Second, in a clandestine meeting held decades ago, the mayors of every city that houses a major university resolved the following: For just one week each winter, their respective student bodies should get obnoxiously drunk and throw up in somebody else’s town for a change.
And thus the bowl system was born.
…Continued from the previous post.
In an imaginary sequel to Field of Dreams, a soccer-playing counterpart to Shoeless Joe Jackson might have said to Kevin Costner “Is this heaven?” To which Costner would have replied, “No, it’s Santa Barbara in December.”
Quite honestly, I don’t know how anyone manages to graduate from UC Santa Barbara. I’m not sure I could have made it across campus to a single class without being enticed off course. So I wondered how the NCAA could expect the soccer teams from Akron and Louisville to concentrate for the 90 minutes needed to determine our national champion.
Fortunately collegians are made of tougher stuff these days though, and not once do I recall anyone drifting away from play in the College Cup final to check out the surf. Even more impressive – a crowd of almost 10,000 fans suppressed the urge to wander as well.