Sunday, December 09, 2007

Still having fun?

Last week, Michael Kruse asked if we were still having fun.

Yesterday, I watched Davidson take on college basketball's most storied program, and I had seen the Wildcats answer some very important questions. In the first half, they moved the ball, shot it well, found inside looks and attacked loose balls. But then something happened...they started turning it over, making bad fouls in transition and taking bad shots. I thought we had answered our questions. But ultimately, it was just another "coulda" loss to a Top 10 on national television.

Are we still having fun?

The other day, Stephen Curry was walking around campus with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. They walked into the Lula Bell Houston Laundry where Steph explained how the whole process worked. To many outsiders, Davidson's free laundry services seems like just another weird quirk to add to this already quirky school. As Steph demonstrated where he would usually drop off his dirty clothes, Carol Belk walked up to him and gave him a big hug and a word of encouragement. The reporter quickly noted this and started spinning a story in her head for how Curry is loved and embraced in such a small community. What this, and so many other stories, don't mention is that all of us here at Davidson receive our own embrace. It's not just Stephen Curry that people know. Everyone knows everyone, and we all support each other through that. Davidson is a really special community with special people to keep it that way.

Are we still having fun?

As Davidson jumped out to its 18 point lead yesterday over UCLA, I received numerous calls on my cell phone from rabid Davidson fans watching around the country. As I periodically check my stats for this blog and see the numbers of Google searches that merely say "davidson basketball," I continue to be amazed at the growing popularity of this team. As my Dad can no longer wear his Davidson shirt around Charleston without having some random stranger ask him something about our basketball team, I know that we have something special. As national reporters continue to call for interviews with a team that is now 3-5, I know that Davidson's name has become associated with the big time.

Are we still having fun?

Not long ago, I read a post on Davidson's message board that said that there is no difference between this year and any other year of Davidson basketball. I completely disagree. From one standpoint, I could argue that this year is better because of the attendance numbers, media attention, marketing clout, etc.

But I would also argue that this year is unlike any other year in Davidson basketball because we're on the verge of replacing fun with a drive for professional success. Davidson fans seem to need that NCAA tournament victory like their lives depended on it. Back in high school, I felt like my life depended on my high school football team winning the first round of the playoffs my senior year. I never played in a game where I had less fun. And of course, we were upset on a last second TD.

There was a time in the past when Davidson players stopped having fun. They were 10-5 in the Southern Conference and did not look like a team with seven seniors. But then Coach McKillop wobbled into practice completely wrapped up in duct tape. "You aren't playing loose!" he yelled as one of his assistants unwrapped one layer. "You are playing not to lose!" he screamed as they took off another layer. "You aren't having any fun!" he exclaimed as he ripped through the final shreds of tape, grabbed a ball and nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key. That year, Davidson went on to sweep the tourney and win the automatic bid.

Are we still having fun?

Over the course of the next two days, I have to write my last ever article for the Davidsonian. I am going to take the time to recount how much fun I have had in the last four years. Fun in winning, fun in losing. Fun in being a part of something exciting, competitive, but ultimately noble. Davidson athletics are noble, and that is a part of what makes them fun.

Are you still having fun? I hope so...because I am.


Zach said...

this season is not like any other. never in my life have I been so emotionally exhausted from watching Davidson basketball games...and it's only December. I'm thankful that my mental stability will not have to endure another gut-wrenching 40 minutes until March. By then, though, I expect this team to have regained its confidence.

Also, in past seasons, just making the tournament was a success. Anything less than at least one victory in the tournament this year will surely make for serious heartbreak.


Jeff said...

Great article Will. I've often felt reading that while in the past, the board and fans were generally supportive win or lose - this year the expectations are so high that losses are devastating.

In past years, a loss to Charlotte or Western Michigan would have been viewed as disappointments but acceptable - this year, the online fan-base is calling for new lineups, questioning coaching decisions, and seems downright depressed. I've always been disappointed after losses but the excitement of winning was much greater than the disappointment from losses. The sad thing is that this year, because people expect us to win (almost) every game, the excitement of victories seems to be gone for much of the fan base.

There were few collective cheers after the App State win - just what was expected. I completely agree with you that we need to get back to the time when we (both as a team and as fans) are playing to win and not playing not to lose. We must enjoy the victory too - and not just agonize about the defeats. Then it will be a fun again

Anonymous said...

Having fun? If you were in the stands for any of the games, including this past Saturday at UCLA and weren't having fun, then you're not a fan.

Embrace and enjoy! It may never happen again.

Great article!