We become fans of the teams we choose for a variety of reasons. Geography often dictates our choice, as it's much easier to follow a team you'll get to see game after game, night after night, box score after box score in the local paper. Some latch on to a winner; it's more fun to celebrate your team's success than wonder if it'll ever have any. As children, we might pick a team based on colors we like or a mascot that entertains us.
But sometimes, our fandom comes about for no reason at all. For reasons we're no longer able to recall, we latch onto a team and adopt them as our own.
I grew up in Indiana but have since moved out to New England for work. As I get more involved in the 800 Games Project, my recaps will be of teams I haven't previously followed in depth, visiting gyms I've never stepped foot in before. My biases will, hopefully, be thrown out the window as I review the contest I attend.
Tonight was not that night, though.
This game was a matchup of MAAC opponents Manhattan and Marist. While I had looked into the two teams I would be watching, I did not know much about Poughkeepsie, N.Y. What little "knowledge" I had was culled from the TV show "Friends." Therefore, I knew the girls in Poughkeepsie were nice but too far away for someone from New York to date.
Not wanting to fall asleep on the train and end up in Montreal, I plotted my course via trusty GPS and made the journey into the Empire State.
Finding the city and the campus were no problem, but as many of you know, parking at mid-major basketball games can be somewhat unpredictable. After getting vague directions from a seemingly pleasant police officer, I headed down the road toward my car's temporary residence. Passing McCann Arena was a touch disconcerting, but I figured I'd find my parking lot soon enough.
I passed the "VIP" lot, manned by a pair of attendants who waved me on down the road. The next lot was another permit-only area, guarded by another attendant who continued to point me away from the arena.
After that, there were no clues. I followed a winding road without a clue of where to go. No further signs or parking attendants guided me. All I saw were a few students wandering an otherwise deserted campus just before tipoff. I continued to circle the campus, looking for clues as to where the non-special basketball guests were to go. After turning around approximately six times, I went back to the attendants, looking for some clue.
"Go to the North Lot," I was gruffly told before being waved along.
Having no idea of where the North Lot could be and exhausting my pregame window, I made one more lap, picked a random parking spot and hoped my car would still be there when I got back.
As I made the 15-minute walk to the arena in 20-degree weather, the frustration that I felt during the menial task of parking turned into anger. I was irritated with Marist for treating a guest so poorly. Finally, I reached the window counter to purchase my ticket.
"Where would you like to seat?" the woman behind the Plexiglas asked, unaware to the pain her college had shown me that evening.
As I looked over the seating chart, I found my payback for this parking scandal.
"Section 102," I replied, behind the visitor's bench.
Yes, for one night, for no reason at all, I would be a Jaspers fan.
I wasn't going to be over-the-top, but on this night, I wanted Manhattan to pull out the conference win. (It probably didn't hurt that the Jaspers entered the game 5-2 in the conference on a three-game win streak, while the Red Foxes were near the bottom of the MAAC at 2-5 and had lost four in a row, making it more than likely that I wouldn't be disappointed by my choice.) I'd clap when something good happened for Manhattan and grumble when things were going well for Marist.
The Red Foxes jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, their biggest of the night, on a pair of 3-pointers by Anell Alexis and Jay Bowie. But Manhattan righted the ship after a timeout and the teams battled for most of the first half, with the Jaspers finally taking the lead for good via a 7-0 run entirely scored by Donovan Kates, his only points of the game. At the half, it was 33-26 Manhattan, and I was feeling good.
There's a natural good-versus-evil feel when your team is playing. As a supporter of the visiting team, I started criticizing Marist's surrounding distractions as well. Shooter, the mascot, was "stupid." They had kids handling mop duty. (Although, I will point out that this should be addressed with a minimum-age rule. Children who are too young put the athletes at risk by not doing a thorough job. Just saying.) The dance team...well, how can you really criticize a dance team? Although I should point out that it and the cheerleaders did not appear to be Title-R complaint; for the Red Foxes, that should be impossible.
Once I caught myself critiquing the band for being too loud, I should have realized I was taking things too far. As a proud former pep band member, loud is rarely a problem.
Even so, I still wanted to see a Manhattan win. In the second half, Marist went ice cold. When you don't make your first field goal until 11:40 is left in the game, the second takes another four minutes and the shooting percentage dips almost as low as the weather, it's going to be hard to win games. Even so, Marist managed to hang around because Manhattan wasn't making many shots either. It wasn't until George Beamon buried a three with 5:37 to put the Jaspers up 13 that I thought the game was in hand.
I have to give a shoutout to Rhamel Brown too. He was an absolute beast, especially in the second half. Coming off the bench, he matched Beamon and Michael Alvarado as high scorers with 12 points while rejected four shots and pulling down 11 rebounds.
In the end, "justice" was had, and Manhattan left town with a 17-point victory of 61-44.
Walking back to my car in temperatures that had now dropped into the teens, I realized how silly my reaction had been. While I wish the system had been better, because I want everything that can be done to encourage people into the arenas around the country to see mids play (including easy parking), things happen. It took a little longer, but I still made it to the game and got to watch some live college basketball.
Whatever annoyance I had felt a few hours earlier slipped away. The next time I see Marist play, whenever that is, I'll give the Red Foxes the same chances I'd give any member of the brotherhood below the Red Line.
MANHATTAN 61, at MARIST 44 01/20/2012
MANHATTAN 13-7 (6-2) -- G. Beamon 5-12 1-2 12; M. Alvarado 4-7 3-4 12; K. Brutus 1-4 1-2 4; R. McCoy 2-5 0-0 5; R. Brown 5-10 2-4 12; L. McCabe-Moran 0-4 1-2 1; D. Kates 2-6 1-2 7; R. Colonette 3-3 0-0 6; M. Koita 0-0 0-0 0; D. Coulibaly 1-2 0-0 2; T. Sommerfeldt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-53 9-16 61. MARIST 7-12 (2-6) -- D. Price 0-11 2-2 2; A. Kemp 1-4 0-0 2; C. Lewis 3-15 4-10 11; I. Morton 2-9 2-3 8; A. Alexis 3-6 2-2 10; M. Thomas 2-5 0-0 5; J. Bowie 1-2 1-2 4; R. Hall 0-1 0-0 0; P. Prinsloo 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 13-54 11-19 44.
Three-point goals: MAN 6-18 (L. McCabe-Moran 0-2; G. Beamon 1-4; M. Alvarado 1-1; K. Brutus 1-4; D. Kates 2-4; R. McCoy 1-3), MAR 7-26 (R. Hall 0-1; D. Price 0-6; A. Alexis 2-3; J. Bowie 1-1; C. Lewis 1-4; I. Morton 2-9; M. Thomas 1-2); Rebounds: MAN 44 (R. Brown 11), MAR 26 (A. Kemp 11); Assists: MAN 11 (M. Alvarado 4), MAR 10 (D. Price 4); Total Fouls -- MAN 17, MAR 15; Fouled Out: MAN-None; MAR-None.