There has hardly been a more draining succession of offseasons in my time as sports fan than in 2011.
First, the NFL couldn’t figure out what to do with its fortune, and nearly risked canceling the season after owners and players spent months debating how to fatten each others’ pockets. Yes, the season survived, but it came at a price of months of speculation and doubt, which weighed on any devoted fan.
Next, the NBA owners and players failed to agree on a new labor agreement, which has already cost the league its first two weeks of games. Meanwhile, some of the league’s best players are heading overseas to keep their paychecks coming, isolating them from the owners and bringing them farther away from a potential deal. At this rate, it would be stunning if we see any NBA basketball in 2011 or 2012.
If the implosion of professional sports wasn’t enough to dry up whatever remaining enthusiasm you had for the future of your favorite teams, surely NCAA conference realignment took your paranoia to a new level. As our proud little private school struggles to find its niche in an ever-changing college sports environment, we are left to wonder what lies ahead for our historic yet vulnerable basketball program.
Tomorrow, however, Midnight Madness offers us the rare chance as Georgetown basketball fans for celebration, rather than stress and disappointment. If only for a moment, we can forget about our lost rivalry with Syracuse or how many times we will have to play East Carolina next year and simply be pumped that basketball is back.
Sure, the tradition has gone a bit stale, especially considering the shocking tournament performances by the Hoyas over the past few years. Last year’s seniors graduated with one NCAA tournament victory. This year, senior captain Jason Clark is facing the frightening prospect of leaving the Hilltop with none.
Recent history is not the only thing working against us. This team is perhaps the weakest and youngest in the John Thompson III era, despite a solid crop of recruits and the return of several key players. Most experts rate the Hoyas no higher than a bubble team, so if they are to cease their persistent egg-laying, it will be an uphill battle.
I don’t want to spread any false hope. This isn’t an “anything can happen” speech or an attempt to rally you all to buy season tickets. No, we aren’t the juggernaut of years past and yes, it appears only darker days are ahead, but our team is going to step onto that court and play. Given the sporting climate these days, that’s refreshing in and of itself.
Besides, this season is a landmark one for the Big East. It may be our last chance to juice the Orange and tame the Panthers, and South Florida remains the only major blemish in a basketball conference otherwise overflowing with history and expectations. Plus, who knows what sort of monstrosity the Big East will be in another 12 months? Consider this season one last hurrah for college basketball traditionalists.
Despite our perceived weaknesses, the same addicting mixture of elation and devastation will converge in each game, as in any season, until the very end when someone (else) is cutting down the nets. These emotions make being a fan such an intoxicating experience (along with any pre-game activities fans might participate to enhance their intensity).
So as pessimism seems to dominate sentiments towards Georgetown basketball at the moment, its time for us—the fans—to inject some positivity. This season may have the looks of a rebuilding year, but given the recent changes around college basketball, it could be our best team for some time.
Conversely, our young, explosive squad is too untested to write off so early. It only takes four successive victories to reach the Final Four, so maybe anything can happen after all.