- Benjamin Franklin
BOSTON - When making a schedule for TMM Season 9 way back in October, there wasn't much thought paid
to the road team. One of the primary goals was to see as many venues as possible, and that meant I couldn't really be too picky as to whom they happened to be playing on that particular night.
Honestly, it can be a little frustrating, but I don't make the schedule. Someday. But not this season.
So after a terribly circuitous route to the Case Center and The Roof, I was on hand Tuesday night to watch Boston University and Maine in an America East clash. It marked the fifth time I'd watched the Black Bears play this season, all of them on the road (even I'm not crazy enough to drive all the way to Orono, Maine. Next
And yet as I looked up at the America East banners, I have yet to and likely won't see New Hampshire this season, the lone conference holdout. That's what the bally gods offered up, I guess.
I wouldn't say I felt fondness for Maine, they weren't the most likable squad I've come across this season, of the eight players that saw significant minutes Tuesday, only two were Americans. But in psychology
, they call it the "mere exposure effect"
, the opposite of "familiarity breeds contempt", which psychologists would tell you is actually apocryphal in the strongest terms.
I wasn't shocked to notice that Maine was 2-11 in road games, but I had witnessed them play Holy Cross very tough
, nearly take down Hartford on a Wednesday afternoon
, and - of course - get stomach-punched by UMBC just three days before
(and a pummeling at the hands of Army
Ted Woodward is a bit loud for my tastes, but - even in his team's worst hours - doesn't seem ridiculously over the top, and how could you not feel for a guy who has to try to recruit basketball players to Maine? Which is how he ends up with a mish-mosh of kids from New York City, Canada, Serbia, Scotland, and Germany playing for him.
Against a Boston University team that has some talent, Maine shook off a slow start to grab a four-point lead midway through the first half. Even though the Terriers were doomed from the beginning of the season with a conference tournament ban for moving to Patriot League next season, they have played some decent basketball at times this season.
Then, while playing in The Roof, their proverbial roof caved in on them in a barrage of #superhoops
that ended with them staring at an 18-point deficit. Yea, 26-4 runs against you don't do wonders for your morale or your chances of winning most of the time.
(Boston University freshman John Papale is a Connecticut kid, high school teammate of Sacred Heart point guard Phil Gaetano. His brother Mike also had a promising career, but it was cut short when he collapsed and his heart stopped at a summer basketball camp
. Luckily, with some quick work by some head's up folk, Mike was saved, although his competitive basketball career was over. Mike is now involved in Our Game, too, as Director of Basketball Operations at Quinnipiac, as he tries to break into coaching. The guy in front of me yelled, "That a way, Paisan," every time Papale scored, which was plenty on Tuesday.)
The lead ballooned as high as 22 in the second half and the final score was never really in doubt, although Maine did get it to 12 late. However, the reactions of the coaches (and therefore the teams) seemed incongruous to what the scoreboard read. Maybe because his team had come back from so far down, Woodward used all his time outs and kept running plays and cheering his team almost until the very end. I guess it's good to stay positive and all, but it just seemed superfluous.
Meanwhile, on the other bench, Joe Jones (brother of Yale coach James and former Columbia head man) threw his hands in the air and seemed distressed about every Terrier mistake in the second half, even though they were never going to lose this game. He used a couple of time outs when Maine went on small runs, and just never settled down.
Having coached in the small-time, I could relate a little bit, I guess. A coach always wants perfection, and sometimes has a skewed view of when a game is out of reach, either way. The instinct to compete is many times too great to overcome by rational thought and common sense.
Soon, though, I was back out into the Boston night, only to be greeted by a fairly significant snowfall (although nothing to what they're getting this weekend apparently). Just great, as I trudged the mile and a half back to my Toyota and wandered back along the Charles River toward Cambridge and the snowy Mass Pike.
Why was I walking a mile and a half to see a basketball game that had less than 500 people attending it? Well, I'm crazy, but you knew that. Other than that? I'll tell you.
One of my best high school friends attended (and played soccer for) Boston University, but time eroded the portion of my memory about the long urban campus that went for blocks. So my GPS spit me onto a part of campus that was nowhere near the Case Center (or any of the other athletic facilities, including Nickerson Field, where the Terriers used to play football and soccer, but no more football for them).
Anyway, as an homage to something Kyle wrote (what isn't an homage to Kyle here?) in the early days of TMM
after a game at The Roof (although that moniker seems like a relatively new phenomenon), here are the Top 10 ways to know that Boston University is not a basketball school:10)
I originally tried to park in a lot on East Campus, but the man running the parking lot didn't even know Boston University had a basketball team. "They must be playing at the Garden. That's down that way." Finally, I went to another lot which basically repeated the same conversation word for word. I just decided to park the car and look.9)
Of course, by then I Googled the address for the Case Center and realized I was more than a mile off, the athletic facilities (and most of the dorms) were on the West Campus. I veered slightly off course, and humorously (as a lifelong Yankees fan) was staring at this:
On a slow jog, I ran toward West Campus, too stubborn to get back in my car and drive it at this point. I saw lots of students in my travels, and I'm pretty sure not one of them was heading to the basketball game.8)
Finally, I got to The Roof:
Only they weren't actually selling tickets at the door. "Where do I get the tickets?"
"You have to go downstairs, just go down the stairs and out the door to the right."
The door was locked. I walked all the way around, found a way into the Case Center, and saw .... A hockey rink.7)
Boston University's hockey team is by far its most famous and most followed athletic squad. In fact, the arena I was now watching practice in - Walter Brown Arena - is not even big enough for their home games, although it holds twice as many people as Case Gym. The women's team plays here, the men's team plays down the street at Agganis Arena. Well, they have gone to the Frozen Four 21 times in their history. (They did, however, get upset by Northeastern the day before in the Beanpot - which pits the four Boston schools against each other - semifinals.)
6) I saw a sign "To The Roof" so I followed it, going by the Maine locker room, only to open a door and find it went back outside. A man wearing a BU polo said, "Can I help you?"
"Yea, I'm trying to see the basketball game."
"Do you have a ticket?"
"No, I'm trying to buy one, but I seem to be going in circles."
"It's right at the bottom of the stairs there."
Just outside Walter Brown Arena, there it was. I bought a ticket, went back up the same flight of stairs, charged straight through the same door I had opener a minute before, looked to my left, and ..... I was back where I started.
Finally, with about five minutes to spare, I was in Case Gym. That would have been an absolutely crappy end to my streak of seeing every tip-off this season.5)
It turned out the ticket I bought 10 minutes before the game put me at center court, two rows from the action. That's can't be a good sign for attendance. And it wasn't.4)
The band and cheerleaders did their best to drum up excitement, but there was no one there. The student section did increase as the game went along, it started at three, went to four, by game's end, it was at six. I give them credit for standing the entire time, though. I thought of all those students I went past on the way here. A few of them weren't interested in watching their school play basketball? On campus?3)
The cheerleaders don't have anyone else to give a T-shirt to, so they try to present it to me, only to have me decline it. They did find someone eventually, though.2)
I walked back out into the snow, and within a block of the gym, no one is talking about the game. Because they weren't at the game. I guess that's the great and humbling thing about being in a big city like Boston, there are very few people that care who you are and what you do. And so I was back on the slow jog to my car, able to admire some of the campus as I went, which looked even more picturesque in the snow.1)
I cleaned the car off, turned to the sports radio station to hear any scores I might have missed. They gave a couple of basketball scores, but none from Boston University.
After this confusing season, next year brings a new conference (Patriot League), different opponents, new challenges, and if Boston University starts winning, maybe the people - the students especially - will come. But on Tuesday night, it was a little depressing.
Meanwhile, Maine sloshed back through the snow back to Orono (where they were able to beat Vermont earlier this season). I went the other way, back to Connecticut, finally arriving safely in New Haven just before midnight. With the America East Tournament a little out of my reach in Albany, sadly, our paths may never cross again.
I'll miss you Black Bears. Even if I never saw you win a game.