Saturday, March 30, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

The college basketball season ended for most folks in the Washington area today.  Georgetown, Maryland, and the other locals were eliminated some time ago, and today Syracuse played Marquette in the East Regional Final at the Verizon Center.  The whole afternoon had a strong sense of cloture about it, as this was the last game that will ever be played between teams from the old Big East in a Big East gym.  (There is still a chance that Syracuse will meet Louisville for the title -- but that would be in Atlanta, and that game would belong to the whole country, not just the East.)  Most folks in Kentucky never liked the Big East very much, but there were many people up here who loved it, and who are heartbroken that it was sacrificed on the altar of college football -- a sport folks in the D.C. area associate with the Red States.

Number3Son and I had tickets, and so even though -- as Number3Son reminded me -- we had no rooting interest in the game, we went along to bid farewell to the Big East and the season.

The weather contributed to my end-of-the-season mood.  After an extremely cold March, we finally got a hint of baseball weather today -- warm and sunny.  There were hundreds of people flying kites on the National Mall, and SmartGirl and I went outside and played catch for the first time this season.  She was thrilled with the light and the heat -- as most folks are after a long winter.  But to the college basketball fan, such weather is inevitably accompanied by the feeling that our favorite season is almost ever, and that we won't get this excited again until November.

It was a dreadful game.  Perhaps it was fitting that Syracuse and Marquette gave us all one final look at the old banging, physical style that we all associate with the Big East.  Syracuse's offense was dreadful -- the Former Orangemen went 19-50 from the field, 12-19 from the line, and 5-17 from three-point range.  But Marquette was much worse -- 12-53 from the field, 12-16 from the line, and a hideous 3-25 from three-point range.  For much of the game, their offense looked as not only as if they had never heard of Syracuse's 2-3 zone, but if they had never heard of basketball.  Syracuse won easily, 55 to 39, and if I had been watching at home, I would have turned it off after about 10 minutes.

But I wasn't at home, so there was a lot of other stuff to keep me interested.  The President was there, which is always a big deal in Washington -- which loves the Presidency unlike any other city, and which can never get enough of this particular President.  There was a brave and energetic crowd of Marquette fans -- who, like the good Midwesterners that they are, cheered and hollered bravely, supporting their team long after it was obvious this would not be their day.  Most of all, of course, there were Syracuse fans -- thousands and thousands of Syracuse fans.  UK and Syracuse rarely deal with each other, which is probably just as well.  But for years we have battled for the national lead in attendance, and there are similarities between the two fan bases.  Upstate New York is an economically-troubled region with a lot of folks who have lived there for a really long time, and who REALLY love their basketball.  The Syracuse fans had the sort of rituals you find with great fan bases -- they stand until the Orange score their first point of each half, they constantly chant "Let's Go Orange," and they have the ability to quickly make up new chants on the fly.  (Today a bloc of Syracuse fans got into a back-and-forth with some leftover Indiana fans, and the Orange supporters quickly broke into a chant of "WE'RE STILL PLAYING.")

These folks, of course, did not find the game boring or ugly.  And I don't blame them.  Even for a team like Syracuse, that has enjoyed so much success, going to the Final Four is a Big Deal.  UK has made it nine times since I started rooting for them, and those are nine of the happiest days of my life.  Whatever the rest of the country thinks of Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse folks love him, and they had to wonder if he would get another chance to go this far.  So they were ecstatic to have such an easy trip to Atlanta, and it was impossible not to appreciate their joy.

But the fans were not alone.  Syracuse had brought its cheerleaders and its band, and they contributed to the party atmosphere.  The band had the great energy and sound of all good pep bands, and they whipped through their repertoire with gusto.  How many times have we all stood in basketball gyms, drawn by the heat and the light, using the game to get through winter?  As I stood downtown today, hearing the band whip through "Let's Do the Timewarp Again," I was happy to have seen another basketball season, and I was already looking forward to doing the Timewarp next November.

1 comment: