- Henry David Thoreau
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - For most of us, reflection is not a large part of our daily lives. We have a list of things in our brain that we feel we have to accomplish, and we mentally cross them off when they are completed: a daily "bucket" list, if you will.
When one day is done, no matter how successful we've been, a new list appears. There is no time to savor what we've done, congratulate ourselves on a job well-done, or even scour the list to maybe eliminate a thing or two that might not be an essential.
It's a dilemma that legends like Thoreau and Emerson pondered at length
, and they never came to a conclusive answer, so what the hell chance do we have?
In Our Game, reflection is an even rarer commodity. We often put so much time and effort into preparation and trying to project what might happen that we fail to enjoy the spectacle, the real reason we're there in the first place. Even before the coach can take his suit off and change into much more comfortable attire, it's all about the next game, the next opponent, matchups, personnel.
Where does it end? Well, in a loss, of course.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't have a heck of a lot of time for reflection, either, this season, with most of my free time either driving to games or doing what I am currently, trying to produce a semi-cogent narrative on what I saw.
But Sunday was a little different. The rowdies headed to the St. Patrick's Day parade on the previous morning had been replaced by a decidedly younger crowd of moms, dads, and young kids headed to check out the portions of New York City that were rated PG or below.
As I looked out the window at the trees and towns passing, I got a chance to reflect, at least briefly. There would be a few more games in the postseason, but this was the final contest of the Mid-majority season before the brackets were announced, and things started to end in a loss in earnest next week.
Hopefully, I'll have some time to look back and recap a little in the next few weeks before we break for the summer and discuss how to honor the Mid-majority in its final campaign. But for this morning, my mind raced back to the sites and experiences, and I swore to myself that I would really enjoy this Atlantic-10 final. I would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (even though it was still quite cold), I would notice the sites of the City, and - most of all - I would sit back and appreciate perhaps the best teams this side of Gonzaga in Our Game.
A nice shiny trophy was on the line for top-seeded Saint Louis and No. 2 VCU, but the pressure was largely off at the Barclays Center. Unlike most of our conference finals, both teams were headed to the NCAA Tournament no matter what happened here. Throw in the contrasting styles of the teams involved, and this should be a lot of fun.
Because of the potential anti-climactic nature of the A-10 final, I didn't originally buy a ticket for it. But it was the only game going on, and as it was when we started this journey more than five months ago, if there's a Mid-majority game going on and I can get there, there's a 99.9 percent chance I'm going.
And so, to the train it was.
On the entire trip, the two small kids in the seat across from me gushed about being to go underground in the train. "Are we almost going underground yet, Mommy?", etc., etc., etc. for approximately an hour consecutively, just as you'd picture it. It was hard to be mad at the extra noise, especially after yesterday's train experience.
Mom informed me at one point that for whatever reason, they had been talking about the underground thing for a month, and she couldn't figure out why they were borderline obsessive about it (some child psychologist might be able to step it here).
As the train left the 125th St. stop headed for Grand Central station, the train made its descent, and below street level it went into the darkness. The kids screamed in delight for a minute or two, then just stared out the window for another couple of moments until the train slowed to a halt and got out.
"When are we going to the M&M's Store, Mommy?"
I hope they enjoyed the underground experience.
Neither Saint Louis nor VCU was at their best in the first half, which was a shame with the game on CBS and all, but the pace favored the Billikens, who led 11-2 seven minutes in. Of course, that couldn't last forever, and the Rams had their obligatory first-half run, but Saint Louis isn't phased by much, and responded in kind.
Kwamain Mitchell, who seemed like he wanted to play leader in this game, hit a massive superhoop late in the first half, and Saint Louis held Havoc to 21 points in posting a 29-21 advantage at the break.
It looked for a little while like the Billikens might actually be able to pull away, VCU couldn't buy a bucket and the veteran combination of Dwayne Evans and Cory Remekun - the second straight game he contributed from deep off the bench - dominating the paint and giving Saint Louis a 45-32 lead with 11:30 left.
But even against the seemingly unflappable Billikens (who were in the regular season meeting between the two teams, a Saint Louis blowout), Havoc had its turn to shine. A 13-1 run was punctuated by a Juvonte Reddic dunk after a steal and VCU was within one. Interestingly, Jim Crews didn't call time out but was forced into one after Evans was trapped in the backcourt.
Saint Louis regained its breath, and got the blue-haired assassin, Cody Ellis, open for five straight points, which was key, because a superhoop from VCU's Treveon Graham was sandwiched in there as well. Alas, VCU would go more than six minutes until its next field goal (against from Graham) with under a minute left, the Havoc half-court offense against a question mark as the Big Dance starts this week.
Mitchell returned to hit a long superhoop to put Saint Louis up 54-48 with 4:50 left, and VCU could never find a way to get within three the rest of the way; the less-flashy Saint Louis Torture outdoing the more famous VCU Havoc for its first Atlantic-10 title.
As I mentioned in the semifinal recap, Crews and his team celebrated but didn't seem overwhelmed by all the attention. They were the regular season champs after all, and had beaten all the teams they played in Brooklyn earlier in the season already.
In fact, in a classic Mid-majority moment, Saint Louis actually got stuck in traffic when leaving Brooklyn and stopped at a New Jersey Best Buy to watch the NCAA Selection Show. With all the stories written about them, and subsequently all the pressure now on them in the early rounds of the NCAAs, I worry about the Billikens. Should they not make it out of the first weekend, will they be deemed failures, not worthy of all the hype heaped upon them, including playing for the memory of their deceased coach?
As I walked onto the train at Grand Central Station for the final time this season headed back to Connecticut, I hoped they had a chance to reflect at all the wonderful things they've accomplished.
Sadly, probably not.