Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mom always said it was foolish to hate a sports team, but she never saw George Mason play

Who knew there'd still be a use for this song after the spring of 1992? "Some say I've got a bad attitude, but that don't change the way I feel about GMU..."

The silly thing is I was beginning to wonder yesterday if I was just going through the motions with this whole disliking George Mason thing. Tony Skinn and the Great Screw Job will be four years old this spring, Skinn and his teammates are long gone, etc etc.

I’m sure, for every jackass who yells “TONY SKINN!!!!” during a game, there’s 10 perfectly reasonable fans. I even attended the game in Fairfax with four of those reasonable folk—two of whom are, like me, out-of-work sports writers with nary a clue what to do next and a third of whom had to finally leave the business he loved for something with, you know, a future. Tear off our alumni sweatshirts and our broken hearts all beat the same, or some philosophical crap like that.

Plus, how long can I really come up with new and hopefully amusing ways to express my contempt of Jim Larranaga and Tom O’Connor? At some point, I figured, it loses its luster and its edge, like a TV show that has gone on for too long (I’m looking at you, 24!), and maybe that time had come. We should never forget 2006 and we should always want to see Hofstra beat Mason 198-2, but how can you hate forever?

Turns out it’s pretty goddamn easy.

And I know exactly when I decided I could hate forever: Ryan Pearson figured it was pretty cool to hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left and Mason up 16 in its 90-72 victory last night.

This is no walk-on jacking threes because he’s excited to get some rare run in the final minute of a blowout. This is Ryan Pearson, who was one of three starters still on the court for Mason in the last couple minutes, despite that vaunted 11-man rotation at Larranaga’s disposal. And it would have been four if Mike Morrison hadn’t fouled out.

“That’s Mason,” Tom Pecora said afterward. “Their reputation precedes them.”

This is also the same Pearson, by the way, who was mouthing off to the Hofstra dance team throughout the second half. We sat right behind the home basket and we saw it happen, multiple times. Wonder no more why Pearson—who was suspended earlier this season for stealing hotel pillows, snicker snicker snort snort—somehow eluded the grasp of Pecora despite being from Long Island. It was no accident.

I know the response from the leather lungs: Mason wasn’t breaking any laws shooting threes that late. If you don’t want to lose by 18, play better. You sound like the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, it wasn’t cool when Northeastern dunked in the final seconds of a 25-point win over Mason 13 days ago and this isn’t the NFfreakingL, but I digress.

(And if you don’t like what I’m writing, a.) thanks for reading and b.) you can tell me how much I suck via email or Twitter. My favorite critic last night, by the way, was the Mason grad who misspelled Hofstra and said I’m an example of why not everyone should have a blog. If it makes you feel any better, guy, Corporate America agrees with you)

It’s crap, or a more appropriate four-letter word that serves as a synonym for crap, and it’s a classless act symbolic of the program. We know now that 2006 wasn’t an aberration—one thug taking out his frustration on a defenseless and innocent opponent. We now know what Mason is under Larranaga: A win-at-all-costs bully for whom winning big is not enough.

As one Hofstra athletic staffer said to me last night: In the end, it all evens out and it all comes out in the wash. And that’s why we want to see Hofstra beat Mason, and why nights like Tuesday are so goddamn frustrating even before Pearson drains a three in the final minute of a blowout.

Because the most maddening thing of all is we KNOW Mason gets the last word. That stupid flipping Final Four banner is hanging at the Patriot Center, and it doesn’t matter how the Patriots got it—doesn’t matter who punched who or who “wasn’t in the room when Mason’s candidacy was discussed”—they got it.

They’ve got the lazy national media eating out of their hand and on the search for the Next Mason, the next cuddly underdog story it can spoon feed the masses. Nobody wants to know, Mason fans least of all, that the cuddly underdog is a gangly mutt who bites and kicks and craps all over the rug.

But we know the truth. That and a ticket to a Hofstra game gets us a view of the 2006 NIT banner. Crap.

All we’ve got is one or two games a year, one or two games a year in which we can’t get back that NCAA Tournament berth that was stolen via backroom politicking but in which we can hope to glean a little bit of satisfaction from watching the smug smile disappear from Larranaga’s face.

Except it never happens. Hofstra beat Mason more in an 11-day span in 2006 than it has in the 1,416 days since. Last night’s loss was the Dutchmen’s fifth in a row to Mason, and every one has been a kick in the nuts. There will be no reliving the gory details, because if you’ve read this far, you either endured the losses with me or would take great pleasure in reading about them.

And so we hang on to believing in karma and cling to the theory that everything will even out and come out in the wash, because, well, what else can we do?

“I’m a big man,” Pecora said. “I know how to take a beating and I know how to give one. It’s a round world.”

Can’t wait for it to finally look spherical.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at


Anonymous said...

Just FWIW, as a Mason fan, you guys deserved to be in the tourney in 06. I think we did, too.

I agree that you guys got jobbed, but it wasn't because we got in, it was because some crappy middle of the road BCS conference team got in.

As for last night, I don't think it's as bad as you're making it out to be. As I recall, time was winding out on the shot clock, and Pearson got the ball at the top of the key. He shot the 3 because he didn't have time to get another shot.

It just happened to go in.

Of course, I am a Mason fan, so I could just be seeing this through green/gold glasses.

Unknown said...

So I get your bitter and it's Coach L's fault Pecora has never been able to win a regular or tournament championship in the CAA, despite having players like Stokes, Rivera, and well as his fault for Hofstra losing it's football team, the designated hitter in baseball, and the Leno/Conan mess.

We also get Mason is full of classless players and not upstanding young boy scouts like Rick Apodoca, Wendell Gibson and Kenny Adeleke.

What I don't get, because you've curiously left it out, is what you think Pearson should have done with the ball. Since there was too much time left on the clock to dribble it out and let the game end, is it your view he should have taken a shot-clock violation instead?

Anonymous said...

On 12/12/09, Hofstra was leading New Hampshire 75-53 with 1:46 remaining in the game (and 24 seconds remaining on the shot clock) when Hofstra's Yves Jules attempted a 3-pointer.

Just read that on-line. Hope you had the same outrage then!

Anonymous said...

You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but your loathing for GMU is uncalled for.

Ryan Pearson is from New York and always wants to put on a show when he plays Hofstra - he may have taken it too far, but he's a college kid, not an adult. And there was no other option, aside from turning the ball over.

Larranaga, remember, benched Tony Skinn for the first NCAA game in 2006 because of the Stokes punch, so he's certainly not a "win at all costs" bully.

There are a lot more appropriate people to villify in the college basketball world, especially an NCAA that routinely refuses to allow mid-majors fair representation in the tournament. Hofstra was certainly robbed that year - the CAA should have had three invites, and Mason, a team ranked in the top 25 weeks earlier, should definitely have been one of them. Your influence, whatever you have, would be better suited toward the larger programs and conferences, as opposed to fellow members of the CAA.

Because, really, directing your anger toward a genuinely good man and coach is ridiculous, and makes you appear a bit naive. Coach Larranaga has been a wonderful representative for the CAA (and he gave Hofstra a lot of props during that 06 Final Four run). Without Larranaga, the CAA would never have achieved the national recognition it has, and it's not his fault if Hofstra failed to capitalize on it the way that MASON and vcu and other schools in the country have.

In any event, MASON has struggled to find offensive consistency all season, and Larranaga was likely unwilling to slow momentum down when his young team was putting on its best performance of the season on the road, against a conference opponent. Do a little more research before you write next time and, likely, you'll be better informed.


Anonymous said...

hahaha, i never realized that you all hated us so much! sorry that your balls are still sore, suck it up and do something about it.

variaban said...

I think the first reply put it best. It sucks that some crappy BCS team got in over a quality "Mid Major" team.

Benching a kid for the first game of an NCAA tournament game is a big deal if you're from the CAA. Not to crack on our conference since we are definitely under-rated but since we normally don't get many representations in the field, it's hard for us to advance too. That could have been his (Skinn) last game right there against Hofstra and Coach L didn't care.

Jerry Beach said...

Thanks, all, for the replies.

Hugh: Never said HU had choirboys. Apodaca and Gibson missed half a season apiece for failing a drug test & Adeleke was kicked off the team even though he might have lifted HU to the 2004-05 title. I'd say when HU has trouble kids, they punish them pretty well. And they haven't had any disciplinary issues in five years. Can GMU say that?

As for Pearson's shot never said he should dribble it out and get a SC violation. But hoisting a 3 is bad form. He had enough time so that he didn't have to throw that up there.

Jerry Beach said...

Anon 2 :That 3 was taken by then little-used freshmen Yves Jules, who played 12 mins (at that time, his 2nd-most mins vs. a D-I opponent). You may recall I said I have no problem with little-used players chucking shots in the waning minutes of a blowout. That's why I had no problem with Birdsong driving the lane. Plus the precedent had been set.

Interesting, though, that Jules received a DNP-CD in his next game. Very interesting.

Jerry Beach said...

Anon 1 & Anon 4: Very classy comments, much appreciated. I've taken the NCAA to task plenty of times for tilting the field in favor of the BCS schools. Believe me. it is the target of far more of my scorn than GMU. Of course, unlike GMU, the NCAA has no fans, so nobody writes in to defend it!

variaban said...

Jerry, you mention how HU disciplines their players vs how GMU handles them. You're comparing players that took drugs vs a player that thought it would be funny to take a pillow from a hotel room. You've got to be kidding!
Your guys were suspended for half the season, I can say with pretty good confidence that if that happend with Coach L, he would kick them off the team. As bad as you think he is, he runs a very clean program and is loyal to the school, not just basketball, hence turning down the Big East a few years ago.

As messed up as it is, you still can't compare a low blow to drug use. One is done be a simple act of stupidity, caught up in the moment. The other is done by a conscious decision to try and improve themselves through enhancements.

Anonymous said...

"And they haven't had any disciplinary issues in five years. Can GMU say that?"

Anon 3 here. You understand, I imagine, why MASON fans are going to jump up to defend Larranaga. The CAA is a better conference because of him, and as an alum of MASON, he's been freaking invaluable to our program. I think it's fair to say that, generally, Larranaga recruits quality players and runs a quality program.

Holy crap, he suspended two players (starters) for stealing pillows, doesn't swear on the sidelines, turned down an offer from Providence to stay at MASON and personally attends most of the sessions of his basketball summer camp. What other coach does that?

I'm not saying I'd kill for the man...but I am saying I'd consider it. Oh, hell, I'd go ahead and do it. He probably has a good reason.