SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Julien Sorel is an uncompromising cynic, a hyper-intellectual, an iconoclast, a young man too smart for his own good. He doesn't fit in. He is poor but brilliant, caught between the peasant path of basic survival and the high existence of the powerful. Julien tries to bridge this gap with love, attempting to carry on impossible affairs with women of high society. He finally finds love with Mathilde, the daughter of a Marquis, as well as acceptance into her family. But an earlier tryst -- the wife of the mayor of his hometown -- betrays him and blocks his path. Wild with passionate revenge, he shoots the mayor's wife, then spends the last of his life in prison. He is executed, and the last scene of the book is Mathilde ritualistically kissing the dead lips of Julien's severed head as it sits like a mask on a marble slab.
Or in other words, "The Red and the Black" is a totally f___ing awesome book. I first read it back when I was in college, and it would have become my personal "Catcher In The Rye" if it wasn't for language. French literature tends to lose a lot in translation, and the soft, voluptuous words and sentences turn clipped and blunt when transformed into our derelict mutt of a tongue. But there's debate as to whether even French readers fully understood the book when it was written in the mid-19th Century. At halftime of the book is the inscription, "for the happy few." This has been taken as a dedication to the only people who could understand what Stendhal was on about.
Nearly two centuries later, the readers of a college basketball website voted to honor this literary accomplishment by naming an upset of a non-Division I team over a team from the richest seven conferences after the book's author. The Black Line separates Division I from the rest, and the Red Line delineates between Our Game's lower class and its aristocracy. So it's totally, wonderfully, beautifully fitting. When you see a Stendhal in progress, it's a two-syllable exhortation and chant. A Big Seven team (like Air Force) that falls victim has been Stendhal'd. And if you're a poor boy who gets himself a rich girl, well then, you've pulled one yourself.
Thank you to Pat L. for the original idea (please choose your book and let us know through The Form™ where to send it). Thank you to all those on Twitter who just knew and started a Twitter campaign to way the vote. and Also, thank you to friend and foreword-writer Luke Winn from Sports Illustrated, who used the power of the media to seal the winning 42 percent result, right before the poll closed. It was really close there for a while. So, here's to the happy few.
And before we get into the actual basketball, a quick update for Season 7 Members. Bally's holiday surprise will be sent out right before the holidays, and it is flat and hard and thin and you will get a whole year's worth of joy from it (especially in March). The t-shirts will be shipped in January, white on black. We were going to put that design to a vote, but longtime collaborator Roni Lagin and I had the idea to lay all the star maps on top of each other in their correct geographic places to create a map of the United States, or rather Hoops Nation. Above, six words: "All Of Us Each Of Us."
We'd also like to take this time to reopen a previous offer. We still have a bunch of students waiting for Season 7 Scholarships (current count: 21), so we'd like to clean the rolls off before we close the program to new entries at the end of the calendar year. Until December 15, anybody who sponsors a scholarship will now get the Team Ballz of their chosen school, which will be shipped after the holidays and before the new year.
And to celebrate the new name for a Black/Red Line Upset, we're going to offer something totally awesome for a limited time: the Stendhal Ballz, or alternately the Stendballz. Half red, half black, with white trim. The next five Membership or Scholarship purchases that specify The Stendhal in the "special instructions" box on checkout will receive their very own talisman just after the holidays, in addition to the book/BB State/Bally Club/t-shirt/holiday surprise combo. So join or sponsor now! We'll strike-through this text and tweet @midmajority when we've exhausted the five. (Also fun if you are a fan of Northern Illinois, Northeastern, Cal State Northridge, or any similarly-colored school.)
That Just Happened
No Red Line Upsets last night, mostly because so many teams in the Other 25 were playing each other, in league games, in parentheses. The topsiest and turviest night happened in the SoCon. Appalachian State, a team I really liked on paper, were Moc'd by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last night, 81-69. Donald Sims, the super-efficient senior guard, scored 28 for App State, and got negligible help as UTC pulled away late. Davidson was similarly taken out by Charleston in an 82-73 final that was tied up with six to go. Andrew Goudelock with a big 33 (13-for-19 shooting) there for C of C. Meanwhile in logical reality, the presumptive repeat champion Wofford Terriers tore up the presumptive last-place team, UNC Greensboro, by 22.
Interesting finals elsewhere included Rider's gigantic 88-59 win over Manhattan to begin Metro Atlantic play. The Broncs (5-3, 1-1), who have two Red Liners over USC and TCU already, shot 61 percent. Two-time Northeast Conference title-winners Robert Morris nipped Long Island 70-69, just barely holding off a Blackbird rally out of a 14-point deficit. And a quick shout to the battle of the Atlantic Sun's Florida green teams, a 70-61 win by Jacksonville over Stetson (the latter pulled the first RLU of Season 7).
Game! Of! The! Night!
Canisius at Iona (Metro Atlantic) Hynes Center - New Rochelle, NY 7:30 EST
We won't be Stardating too much on Fridays this year, mostly because there aren't very many games on the week end before the weekend. But here, tonight, we have some MAAC action in the great empirical state of New York. Iona's an interesting team, for sure. Won 21 games last season, returned a lot, and hasn't been talked too much in the conversation about who's going to fill the post-Siena Dynasty vacuum. It's a squad that's started out 3-3, and endured a rough start with losses to Kent State and Cleveland State (okay, acceptable) and Bryant (um, whoa). The rebound has included an 81-77 double-overtime decision over a tough Richmond team and a couple of roadies at Albany and Norfolk State. Feisty defense that turns teams over a lot, and there are four double-figure scorers early on. The most intriguing is 6-foot-7 former Seton Hall Pirate Michael Glover, who's averaged 17.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg against a mixed bag of opponents.
We got a look at Canisius the other night at Binghamton, and it's the same Generic Basketball Team we've become accustomed to. Only scribbled down about three sentences worth of notes, as I hardly noticed they were there. But all seven-year running jokes aside, it's a program that's getting better under Tom Parrotta. The win total has moved upwards from six to 11 to 15, and over three years the Golden Griffins have turned from a team that scores 60 to a team that can score 70. A big part of that has been 6-foot-6 senior Elton Frazier (10.8 ppg, 55.3 percent shooting), one of the many anonymous players in the MAAC who end their college basketball careers without plaudits or hardware. Frazier, however, will be able to say that he improved steadily every year, and that counts for something too.