Friday, March 21, 2008

Congratulations AU men's basketball

Confession: I've attended less than ten American University men's basketball games in almost twenty years -- an average of one game every two years. One season, maybe four or five years ago, I went to five games -- none of which were very good. The athletic program is a very small part of my university, and, since there is next to no school spirit around the sports we do have, the athletes who play them go about their business in relative obscurity.

That might change after today.

The AU men's basketball team gave a bigger, stronger, Tennessee Volunteer team all it could handle before falling, 73-57. The game was much, much closer than the score indicates. AU had to resort to the foul-o-rama that is a staple of basketball strategy in the closing moment of games where one team has to make up a deficit in hopes of forcing its opponent to choke at the free throw line (Note: Is there anyone else out there who hates this part of basketball? A game that can breathtakingly exciting gets reduced to fouling and free-throwing shooting in the closing moments of regulation. Does any other sport do this?). Tennessee didn't choke, and sunk free throw after free throw to put a game, that had seen the lead change hands early on and AU pull to within a point with five minutes to go. This was truly a David-and-Goliath match-up. I went to Tennessee my first two years of college, and I had the chance to see a big time Division 1 athletic program close up. To say there is no comparison with how schools like Tennessee do sports and schools like mine do sports might be the understatement of 2008. Mom-and-Pop operations have their charm; in the end, though, it's hard to withstand the Wal-Marts of college athletics, which is what schools like Tennessee are.

The game was great. What was also great was the genuine excitement leading up to the game and the . . . gasp!, since this is AU we're talking about . . . school spirit during the game. I watched the game on a big screen in the student center (The Tavern, for insiders), and it reminded me of the times I watched big-time college games in off-campus bars during college when I couldn't get tickets to attend them. Of course, readily available cheap pitchers of cold beer would have made the afternoon perfect, but . . . it was still a moment unlike any other I can remember at AU. Most students don't this excited about anything unless a former Deputy Press Secretary to a former President visits campus to give a well-compensated talk about what everyone in the audience already knew.

Congratulations to the men's basketball team. Let's hope this is the start of something great, for the athletic program, the students and the university.

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