"I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
"Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"
I'm reasonably sure that Nietzsche wasn't talking about football -- either American or association (soccer) -- or basketball when he was writing "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" in the 1880s, but you never know. It was probably his most famous work, and was used (the title at least) by Francis Fukuyama in 1992, who wrote "The End of History and the Last Man", basically telling the world that its wussification will soon reach critical levels, and once everyone follows the American ideals of freedom and democracy, everyone will ease into a kind of happy ignorant bliss until the end of time.
But you didn't come here to talk philosophy, did you? Well, maybe you did, but we're moving on, sorry.
I'm semi-ashamed to admit that I'm relatively new to the cult of the Mid-Majority. I don't have good reasons as to why, in going backward in time, Kyle's writing is some of the best sportswriting I've ever seen.
Some of the little quirks of the Mid-Majority sect are funny, such as being Title R compliant. I always find myself looking now when I'm at a game. This time of year, the "Last Man" thing continues to come up.
I was reminded again of the power of American football Sunday when a reasonably big game between Hartford and Boston University at Chase Arena turned into what I call "a friends and family special", as in the stands were empty. I counted about 500 people in the stands (it was announced at 872), and probably half of them were furiously checking their phones at every media timeout.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, their 4 p.m. tip-off was smack dab in the middle of the AFC Championship game, which happened to feature the semi-home team, New England, against Baltimore. The second game, the NFC title tilt, was to start at 6:30 and also featured a somewhat de facto local squad, the New York Giants.
(Full disclosure, if the Giants had the first game, I wouldn't be at this basketball game. As a lifelong New York football Giants fan since I could walk, I surely will not be the Last Man to find out the score of this year's Super Bowl.)
As the Ravens and Patriots battled back and forth 75 miles away, Hartford and BU combined to have one of the worst offensive halves I've ever seen. The two teams combined to shoot 12-for-48 from the field, the Hawks were 0-for-11 from three-point range, and the Terriers went to the locker room with a 19-13 halftime advantage. Ouch, indeed.
Mark Nkawamma made the Hawks' first two shots of the second half, leading coach John Gallagher to raise his hands in the air in an act of thanks to the Bally gods, but unfortunately for Hartford and Gallagher, Darryl Partin was an angry young man.
Partin -- not only the Terriers' leading scorer, but 16th in the country -- had been held to a big, fat goose egg in the first 20 minutes, but it took him only 14 seconds to score after the intermission. And he wasn't close to being satisfied there. Partin keyed a 21-6 run to start the second half, and by the time Gallagher was frustrated enough to pick up a technical foul, his team was down 20, and BU was cruising to a 65-46 road victory.
Partin had all of his 22 points in the second half (more than either team had in the first), as the Terriers outrebounded the Hawks, 41-20, not all that surprising if you consider that Hartford came into the contest with a -7 average rebound margin, one of the worst in the nation.
The Terriers, despite being just 10-11 overall, are 6-1 in America East, and at this point your money has to be on either them or Stony Brook representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
Around here, we always joke about the NEC being known as "The Road To Dayton" because the conference winner will inevitably end up in the play-in (new first) round, although the last three years, the NEC has actually been a No. 15 seed (Long Island last year and Robert Morris twice).
Unfortunately, Hartford's recent success in the conference (they came in with a 4-2 conference record despite not winning a single non-conference game) may be an indictment of the 2011-12 version of America East, which may be a "Road to Dayton" conference this season, but time will tell.
As the game ended, and I made my way to the lobby of Chase Arena, fans started to gather around one of the televisions. The Patriots held a tenuous 23-20 lead over the Ravens, and Baltimore was driving. Other than a couple of kids from the birthday party (what a great idea, by the way) whose "Let's go Ravens" chant was quickly shouted down, the growing crowd was getting tense as the Ravens moved into field-goal range.
As the game drew to its climax, members of both teams made their way to the lobby, along with the local television broadcasters, some coaches, and game personnel. As poor Billy Cundiff's kick went wide, there was a mighty roar and hugs all around.
Amidst this scene, though, one man walked through with his head down and never looked up at a television. Hartford coach John Gallagher was on his way to meet some alumni (including one from the 1950-51 Hawks squad), and didn't seem to care two you-know-whats about the event finishing up on the television screens around him.
Maybe he could be some competition for Kyle, yet, in the Last Man contest.
Or, much more likely, he was deep in thought trying to figure out how to get his team better, how to fix the mistakes that led to the lopsided loss, and how to do it yesterday. This is the time of the season that coaches rest little and sleep less, trying to find the edge, trying to find the magic combination that will get them "hot at the right time" and put them in line to try on the slipper of one Ms. Cinderella.
Gallagher's obvious distracted mood led me to think back to Nietzsche's Last Man. He's probably not coming to join us in the Mid-Majority club any time soon, is he? Chaos is the norm among basketball coaches at any level, really. It's a constant no-win battle trying to beat the house, and the house always wins, leaving plenty of room to despise one's self.
Guys like Jimmy Patsos, as Kyle so eloquently demonstrated, are not going to be the Last Man, content to sit around and be comfortable in a 9-to-5 job, Monday through Friday. And you could probably substitute any mid-major coach (or assistant really) into that equation. Well, maybe not Brad Stevens.
And so Nietzsche, had he not gone nuts and been dead for 110 years, would be happy to know that the Last Man is not coming to America in the near future. Not while there is still college basketball around.
Is that such a bad thing, to give your life to a goal and go after it with all your might, through thick and through thin and through self-doubt that you and I will probably never know?
I'll let Friedrich have the last word:
"Zarathustra had a goal; he threw his ball; now you, my friends, are the heirs of my goal; to you I throw my golden ball. More than anything, I like to see you, my friends, throwing the golden ball. And so I still linger a little on the earth: forgive me for that."
BOSTON UNIVERSITY 65, at HARTFORD 46 01/22/2012
BOSTON UNIVERSITY 10-11 (6-1) -- D. Irving 6-7 0-0 15; D. Morris 1-3 2-2 4; D. Partin 6-16 7-8 22; M. Griffin 1-4 1-2 4; T. Robinson 0-2 0-0 0; P. Hazel 2-5 0-0 4; M. Thomas 4-7 1-2 9; J. Pelage 0-0 0-0 0; Z. Chionuma 2-3 2-2 7; M. Terry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 13-16 65. HARTFORD 4-15 (4-3) -- A. Torres 4-10 2-3 10; N. Sikma 3-11 2-2 9; M. Nwakamma 2-7 2-2 6; Y. Moore II 1-4 0-0 2; W. Cole 4-9 0-0 11; C. Brothers 0-3 0-2 0; G. Maciel 3-4 0-0 6; R. Baker 0-1 0-0 0; J. Schneck 1-2 0-0 2; C. Wroe 0-0 0-0 0; O. Faulk 0-0 0-0 0; D. Clarke 0-1 0-0 0; B. O'Neill 0-0 0-0 0; C. White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-52 6-9 46.
Three-point goals: BU 8-20 (M. Griffin 1-3; D. Partin 3-8; M. Thomas 0-3; D. Irving 3-3; T. Robinson 0-2; Z. Chionuma 1-1), HART 4-21 (A. Torres 0-4; G. Maciel 0-1; C. Brothers 0-1; W. Cole 3-7; Y. Moore II 0-2; N. Sikma 1-6); Rebounds: BU 39 (D. Morris 12), HART 17 (A. Torres 4); Assists: BU 10 (D. Irving 7), HART 10 (A. Torres 3); Total Fouls -- BU 15, HART 15; Fouled Out: BU-None; HART-None.