There used to be a show on MTV -- back when I used to watch MTV -- called Diary, that began "You think you know, but you have no idea." As much as I hated to admit it, it wasn't half bad, although I'm 99 percent sure I said goodbye to some IQ points along the way.
I'm no scientist, and here's probably why: Science has all kinds of laws, and they have helped society in more ways than I ever will. We have laws of heat conduction, partial pressures, fluid dynamics, and elasticity. We have Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which is so far above my head that it's in orbit somewhere.
I don't do laws. Well, other then the ones that govern this great society of ours. I'm no anarchist or anything. At least as far as you know.
Perhaps the most famous is Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion, which states, "Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it."
I do admire some of the scientists that have shaped our world, partly because many of them were as crazy as I am. I love to experiment. With three hours between the time the train from Fordham made it to Manhattan to the game uptown, I decided I would walk the 85 or so blocks, cutting through Central Park, which I had never traversed from one end to the other. Time it took: 1 hour, 36 minutes for those scoring at home.
Anyway, back to Mr. Newton and science as it relates to college basketball (you'd sign up for that class, wouldn't you?).
I thought I had Saturday night's Columbia-Yale game pegged. I knew both teams, knew that Yale was coming off a heartbreaking loss at Cornell just 24 hours prior that essentially eliminated them in the Ivy League title chase (and therefore from NCAA Tournament contention). Motivation factor for making the four-hour trip from Ithaca to the upper west side: close to zero.
Meanwhile, Columbia, led by a young coach I really like in Kyle Smith, was only 3-4 in Ivy play, but had absolutely plastered Brown the night before, had very little pressure on them, and was in front of a sell-out crowd at Levien Gym (luckily, I got standing room tickets).
To prove that Las Vegas was paying attention, I looked it up and Columbia was a three-point favorite. Although sports wagering is illegal in 49 of our 50 states, had I been in the one, I might have wagered a schilling on the Lions.
Even as a pseudo-Yale fan, I feared that this may be a tough task for them. Columbia was in a state of motion toward confidence and success, Yale was the antithesis.
(SIDEBAR ONE: THE IVY LEAGUE HAS CHOSEN THIS SEASON ON SATURDAYS, BECAUSE TEAMS PLAY BOTH GAMES EITHER AT HOME OR ON THE ROAD, TO HAVE HOME TEAMS WEAR DARK COLORS, AND VICE VERSA. THIS SHOULDN'T BE A BIG DEAL, BUT FOR SOME REASON, I HATE IT. MAYBE I'M JUST A CRANKY OLD MAN, BUT EVEN WHEN I SEE HIGHLIGHTS, I GET CONFUSED. SOMEONE CAN DO THE LAUNDRY IN 24 HOURS, EVEN IF YOU'RE AT A HOTEL.)
For 30 minutes, I was a superior Ivy League expert. Reggie Willhite singlehandedly tried to keep Yale in the game, but by the half it was 30-23 Columbia.
After Willhite got one of his seven steals and converted the layup at the other end to begin the second half, Columbia went on a 21-5 run to put the game out of reach, 51-30. With exactly 10 minutes remaining and Yale down 51-33, point guard Michael Grace drove to the basket, turned his ankle, lost the ball, and Meiko Lyles tossed it ahead to Chris Crockett who laid it in to make it 53-33. Grace was clearly done for the night, the student section was in full voice, the small gym was roaring, and if it were a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in to stop it.
Yale coach James Jones took a seat on the bench, normally rambunctious assistant Jamie Snyder-Fair was silent next to him, and the Yale parents somehow placed in the middle of the Columbia co-eds, were plotting an escape route.
(SIDEBAR TWO: FOR THOSE THAT THINK THAT IVY LEAGUERS ARE THAT MUCH SMARTER THAN YOU, LOOK AT THE DOOR BELOW, WHICH IS CLEARLY MARKED "ALARM WILL SOUND". NOT ONCE, NOT TWICE, BUT THREE TIMES, PEOPLE OPENED THIS DOOR, AND SURE ENOUGH, AN ALARM SOUNDED. THERE'S NO WAY TO TELL FOR SURE THAT THE YOUNG ADULTS THAT OPENED THE DOOR WERE COLUMBIA STUDENTS, BUT CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE POINTS STRONGLY TO IT.)
But as I started to think I might be able to make the 9:22 train back to New Haven out of Grand Central, craziness ensued. Led by Willhite and Greg Mangano -- both seniors, it should be said -- Yale scored 17 of the next 19 points and with 4:30 left it was 55-50. Columbia slowed the bleeding for a while, but they were imploding from pores they didn't know they had. Smith was suddenly out of timeouts, the Lions couldn't break a press, and somehow Jesse Pritchard found himself wide open on a missed assignment in the right corner for a three-pointer, and it was 58-57 with 38 seconds left.
Seconds later, Columbia freshman Alex Rosenburg, who hit some big shots early in the half, threw the ball to no one in particular. Yale gave the ball to Willhite, who faced little resistance going straight to the goal, putting Yale up for the first time in 30 minutes with 13 seconds left.
It looked like Columbia might get out of jail when on an inbounds play, Blaise Staab was fouled with 3.5 seconds left.
The game notes (which had Staab's picture on the front) included this: "Last weekend at Dartmouth and Harvard, Columbia made 25 of 27 free throws. The Lions have shot the ball well from the foul line for the better part of two months and currently rank 31st in the nation and second in the Ivy League at 74.4 percent from the stripe."
Staab's first barely drew iron, the second was in and out, Mangano got the rebound, and Yale had done the impossible. Adding to the drama, down I-95 in Philadelphia, Princeton had upset Harvard, and miraculously, the Bulldogs will head into next weekend with a shot to go to Boston and even the Ivy League race.
Back from the dead, indeed. Sometimes it's best not to ask how. Sir Isaac would have been completely baffled.
As James Jones, not usually one to show emotion, pumped his fists wildly and ran onto the court hugging everyone in sight, I was reminded of the late, great Oakland Raider announcer Bill King's call of the infamous "Holy Roller" that beat the Chargers in 1978. I like to pull it out when ridiculous things happened, and it certainly seemed apropos here:
"The Yale Bulldogs have won the game on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a comeback! Coach James Jones is on the court. He wants to know if it's real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There's nothing real in the world anymore! The Bulldogs have won the basketball game! The Lions....they don't believe it. Three thousand people minus a few lonely Yale fans are stunned. This one will be relived forever!"
Well, maybe this one won't be relived forever.
But as Jones picked up his young son, who had wandered onto the court in the celebration, and held him high in the air as his team surrounded him, I thought what Socrates had figured out two and half millenia ago: I have no idea what I'm talking about.
And that's OK.
Well, until I forget about that next weekend and guarantee so-and-so is going to beat so-and-so.
YALE 59, at COLUMBIA 58 02/11/2012
YALE 16-6 (6-2) -- R. Willhite 11-19 2-2 24; J. Kreisberg 4-7 0-0 8; A. Morgan 3-9 1-1 8; G. Mangano 3-10 4-7 11; J. Pritchard 1-2 0-0 3; M. Grace 0-5 0-0 0; B. Sherrod 1-2 3-5 5; M. Townsend 0-1 0-0 0; S. Martin 0-0 0-0 0; J. Duren 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 10-15 59. COLUMBIA 14-10 (3-5) -- B. Barbour 5-12 0-0 10; M. Lyles 6-11 0-0 17; M. Cisco 6-8 0-0 12; A. Rosenberg 2-4 1-2 6; B. Staab 2-3 0-2 4; C. Crockett 2-7 0-0 5; V. Green 1-1 0-0 2; J. Daniels 0-0 2-2 2; C. Osetkowski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-46 3-6 58.
Three-point goals: YALE 3-15 (G. Mangano 1-4; R. Willhite 0-3; M. Grace 0-3; A. Morgan 1-3; J. Pritchard 1-2), COLU 7-17 (C. Crockett 1-5; B. Barbour 0-3; M. Lyles 5-8; A. Rosenberg 1-1); Rebounds: YALE 24 (G. Mangano 6), COLU 27 (M. Cisco 12); Assists: YALE 10 (R. Willhite 5), COLU 16 (B. Barbour 7); Total Fouls -- YALE 14, COLU 16; Fouled Out: YALE-None; COLU-None.