Recently, my silent compatriot and I have wondered…what to make of this season? And, less importantly, but perhaps more urgent for our selfish purposes, what to make of Lefty’s Legacy? As Davidson’s men’s basketball team draws closer to its season opener on the road against a top ranked Butler team, a momentary existential pause seems appropriate. Base Rich is in a tortured state, remembering that the final result of the game against Butler last February effectively stamped out the unrealistically hopeful flame that had burned in Davidsonians’ hearts since that magical run in 2008. Our expectations had gotten the better of us, and perhaps the team as well, according to some post-season interviews. When that game ended, Base Rich, having traveled the distance from Boston to DC to watch in my tiny efficiency, declared half-truthfully, “I believe in nothing.”
In the sports world, writers and fans futiley spend the preaseason trying to make sense of the unknown by offering up a myriad of tired predictions and cliches. I’ve read far too many already about this team. The standard line from the sports writers, that uneducated lot, foresees a season of utter disappointment for a team that just lost the best player in school history to the NBA. Some predict that Davidson will finish in the middle of the pack in the Southern Conference…something that I have yet to witness since my first days as a Davidson student, more than eight years ago.
And then there are the “true” fans who point to Bob McKillop as a God among men, a coach who can turn water into wine, much like he did after losing an entire starting roster of Seniors in 2005 (nevermind the fact that that was the year that Curry arrived). Michael Kruse, perhaps the most prolific and dedicated of all Davidson basketball writers, urges that these are the times when Coach McKillop does his best work.
I guess I have to identify with the latter camp here. As an alum, and current obsessive fan, I can’t help but dream of this team shocking the world tomorrow in Indiana. Then again, the last two seasons have taught me to be wary of looking too far into the future. Part of what made 2008 so enjoyable was that it was so unexpected. As fans, we jumped on the ever-ascending roller coaster of that season and enjoyed every minute of it, not taking anything for granted, and refusing to look too far ahead. Last year, on the other hand, our minds fast-forwarded to March before the season even began. Every game, every moment, was a means to an end. We no longer cared about the journey, but instead wanted that instant gratification — we craved the high of NCAA Tournament success, and lost perspective on the importance of the unique path that could get us there.
This year, I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that I will try to watch and follow this team the way I did prior to 2008. At the risk of sounding tacky and dramatic, there is something about this program, about being part of this story, that makes my allegiance to this team feel oddly important to my life. Perhaps it is that persistent existential self-reflection, so common to my generation in these tough times, that forces me to derive meaning from places as contrived as a basketball court. Or, maybe there really is something to this whole Davidson basketball thing…something inherently good and purposeful, that makes dedication to this team feel almost like a higher calling.
Then again, to return to earth, it could just be that I’m sick and tired of watching those damned Golden State Warriors on channelsurfing late at night.
Tomorrow…I think we’ve got a shot.