Friday, March 13, 2009
Here's the thing:
I don't know if last night's eight-part miniseries (two halves, six overtimes) involving Syracuse and Georgetown actually was the most memorable college basketball game I've ever seen. I guess I won't actually know the answer to that question for several years, when in the midst of an organic conversation at a hypothetical tavern that may or may not exist yet (in a city where I may or may not live right now), someone asks me the question--"Hey, there, person I have met at some point in the past (and/or future), what is the most memorable college basketball game you've ever seen?"-- and then I will determine whether this game immediately and instantly comes to mind. My guess is that I will still cling to some vague romantic notion that the Big East games I watched as a child, games involving Walter Berry and Pearl Washington, were somehow "better," but this is obviously nostalgia speaking.
It is true that the "greatest" game and the "most memorable" game are two completely different things. It is also true that duration does not necessarily indicate quality (See: Benjamin Button, trans-atlantic flights, cricket),* but a large part of what made this game so unbelievable is that it just kept going and going. In the end, it was like watching a bunch of guys in a random gym running their seventh pickup game of the day; at one point, I think Syracuse was down to two walk-ons, a team manager, a security guard and an 11th-grader at Stuyvesant High School. At another point, Paul Harris was so exhausted he actually got stuffed by the rim, which, I believe Sean McDonough pointed out, probably hasn't happened to him since the fifth grade. And that's what made it memorable--in an age when major college basketball is played at an almost unfathomably high level by ridiculously talented athletes, this game broke all that down. In the end, guys were actually falling down for no apparent reason. In those moments, we could relate to the game itself in ways that we could never relate to, say, a Clippers-Heat showdown: Because the imperfection is simply more explicit. This game, to quote a friend, was proof why college sports are far better than professional sports, and this was also proof that there are certain members of the blogosphere who are determined to make everything in modern sports seem categorically bad. I cannot say for certain, but my guess is those people will look awfully misguided 10 years from now, when we become nostalgic about this night.
*It is also true that I spent a disproportionate amount of my childhood awaiting a game that would go to a fourth overtime, just to see if the network graphics would show that the game had gone to "quadruple overtime." Unfortunately, the modern-day method of stripping the score at the bottom of the screen, using only numbers, ruined this for me. Can you imagine the thrill of seeing "sextuple overtime" on your screen last night? That would have made this a truly memorable evening!
(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)