Saturday, March 5, 2016

Upon approaching the corner of Sadness and Euphoria

The year I barely updated my blog but always did so with a Billy Joel video.

If there’s one thing I’ve proven over seven-plus years at this sporadically updated blog, it’s that I’m not the most punctual dude on the planet. So as I post this, 10 hours before the Flying Dutchmen tip off CAA Tournament play by battling ninth-seeded Drexel in a quarterfinal here in Baltimore, less to advise you to savor the experience and more in hopes that you’ve already done so.

I hope you savored the week-long anticipation that comes with being the no. 1 seed—the nervousness, the excitement that comes with knowing championship dreams won’t require a Hollywood screenwriter, the idle thoughts about how the Dutchmen will end up the last team standing Monday night. And sure, the occasional panicked thought about how easily the CAA’s top seed could fall to 32-2 all-time in its opening game

I hope you savored the wild fashion in which the Dutchmen clinched the no. 1 seed despite spending a grand total of zero days alone in first place. In a span of less than 48 hours last week, they mounted a comeback from an 18-point deficit to stun UNC Wilmington, who would have clinched the top seed with a win, before beating College of Charleston.

With less than six minutes left in the latter game, we learned the Dutchmen could officially clinch the top seed at home when Northeastern hung on to beat Drexel 61-59. Had Drexel won—and Tavon Allen missed a 3-pointer shot at the buzzer—it would have created the mother of all tiebreaker traffic jams, one that wouldn’t have been broken until the next day’s RPI determined whether the Dutchmen or UNC Wilmington would be the no. 1 seed. As it turns out, Hofstra would have won that tiebreaker, but could you blame us for thinking something would have gone haywire with the computers overnight?

I know I’ll always remember yelling Northeastern-Drexel scores at Jeff Hathaway, who was seated a few rows in front of me, and experiencing the clincher with my wife, Sully Ray and my college roommate, John. We all stormed the court after the America East championship game wins and it was pretty special to take in the next on-campus clincher with our kids in tow.

I hope you were able to see and savor the postgame press conference, when the entire Dutchmen team filed into the room and Joe Mihalich teared up twice talking about Senior Day and the roles Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley played in the rapid rebuilding of the program. I’m pretty sure Hathaway—who has been to the very top of the basketball world 14 times with the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s teams—choked up too in an impromptu address of his own.

“I just want to step in and say this day, this win, is about everybody that’s ever worn Hofstra Pride in the men’s basketball program,” Hathaway said. “This is about the ’76 team, the ’77 team, the ’00 team, the ’01 team.”

I hope you savored the view from here, and took a glance in the rear-view mirror and saw the 2012 CAA Tournament, when the Dutchmen suffered the most lopsided loss in tourney history, and the 2013 CAA Tournament, which provided the period on the most painful season in program history. 

“What would you have said three years ago if I said we’d be here and Hofstra would be the number one seed?” my wife asked last night. I think I said something about random drug testing.

I hope you also saw the objects closest in the rear view mirror. This was a regular season unlike any other (of course, I suppose you can say that about ANY regular season), one which began with heightened expectations and a renewed vow to employ serenity now. Except of course I spent a bulk of the season going all Frank Costanza. I’m not proud of it, but I’ll own it. 

I hope you savored the final few steps in a path that began 52 weeks ago with the double-overtime loss to William & Mary, and once again brought us to the corner of sadness and euphoria.

I don’t know what the end result will be (shocking, I know). I still worry over how a team that really only goes six-deep can win three games in three days. Whatever happens, we will either exit this weekend and crawl into another off-season that will feel impossibly long and uphill, or experience an exhilaration 15 years in the making.

“You knew it was going to be a long wait,” Mihalich said this week. “You knew it was going to be a long offseason. But it’s what we sign up for.”

It’s what we sign up for, too. 

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