Game 067:at Harvard 82, Yale 66 Friday, February 26, 2005 Lavietes Pavilion - Cambridge, MA
If each basketball team's season is like a single lifetime, then Ivy League hoops must be a lot like life. There are good days and bad days, zero second chances and absolutely no do-overs.
And if you were to, say, compare the Ivy League season to the lifespan of the average human, each of the scheduled 14 games would be the equivalent of approximately six annums (or approximately one dog year). So it was notable when the 2004-05 Yale Bulldogs spent nearly a quarter-century climbing the ladder of success - all the way to the position of vice president of Ancient Eight, Inc. - by winning four straight mid-season contests. Their run included hard-fought victories over their traditional superiors, Princeton and league-leading Pennsylvania. They went into a mid-week meeting against travel partners Brown with dreams of snatching the crown, and pushing this strained simile to its absolute outer limit.
But there in their New Haven home, the Bulldogs rolled over and played dead. After a 70-64 decision, Yale's respectable and upwardly mobile 5-3 mark had been replaced with a scarlet 5-4. "We just didn't make all the shots we needed to," lamented guard and captain Alex Gamboa afterwards.
Well, Alex, life is like that sometimes.
And so, as Yale slunk out of town on North I-95 for a Harvard/Dartmouth road trip, spirits were low. Penn was speeding away with the conference and threatened to clinch before the weekend was out, rendering the remainder of the Ivy League season meaningless. The other seven teams in the conference seemed doomed to play out their respective strings, conveniently forgotten while the Quakers enjoyed the fruits of the afterlife. It was enough to get a student-athlete all kinds of philosophical.
On this Friday evening, the Bulldogs' anemia was apparent as they walked throuh their pre-game shootaround in a state of slump-shouldered shock. Their funk only deepened once play started. It was just another day at the office, but the Crimson were all too eager to torment their long-time cubicle-mates - Harvard burst out to a 32-26 halftime lead, and began to unravel a gamebreaking run to start the second half.
At the start of the first media timeout, with the game quickly slipping away, the Yale coaches gathered and strategized languidly at the key's elbow, while the players huddled on the bench.
"C'mon!" Gamboa screamed at his teammates. "Let's get back into this!"
And just then, over the hissy, crackly Lavietes Pavilion public address system, an surprisingly apt and apropos musical question.
In style, profile, got to buy The new Cavalli Keep the skin tight and the booty in the air Don't stop the party The road is paved but narrow, I hope we all get home
Where are we runnin'? We need some time to clear our heads Where are we runnin'? Keep on working 'til we're dead Where are we runnin'? (Oo wee oo wee oo) Where are we runnin' now
The Bulldog bench, nor an insipid and overplayed pop song, could provide any clear answer. When your winter has arrived squarely in the middle of your autumn, it's difficult to find reasons to fight on, to continue. All that effort, all the running, seems aimless and useless and pointless. It's only when you ponder the meaning of it all when it starts to hurt.
It would be exceedingly pleasant if the first stages of our earthly existences led to a "seed," which would be delivered to us as a golden numbered ticket from a divine hand. Instead of a midlife crisis, we'd have a conference tournament. There on that loser's bracket of second opportunities, we'd have the chance to pull upsets, right our past transgressions and wrongs, and go all the way out of a seven-seed.
But life, obviously, isn't like that. Not even close. There are small steps forward and back, and few of us have the opportunity to lead our respective leagues by being rich in finance or in spirit. So it's no wonder that folks who graduate from places like Harvard and Yale and Pennsylvania and Princeton are more successful - with the help of the lessons taught by the Ivy League basketball season, they're more prepared for reality.