Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Guest post: When is it time to come home again?
By Joshua Meredith
I have not viewed a GW(U) basketball game in-person since March 19, 2007. It was the final time I saw Joe McKeown patrol the sideline, and it was obviously a Colonials win, over Texas A&M, in where else, but Los Angeles, California. My last men’s game: the A-10 championship game in Atlantic City, NJ the same year, probably the last nationally relevant game played by the men’s squad.
The question, and probably the emotion, that keeps coming to me, is why has it been so long? The answer being: I have actively ignored and stayed away from the Colonial programs I spent so much time around during college, since my own graduation.
The secondary question is: was I just burnt out or is something holding me back from coming to the Smith Center, or actively viewing a game in-person? I have watched some games on TV when they were available to me, but what about the physical act is holding me back?
Some background. I spent four years in some capacity covering GW athletics. Freshman and sophomore year I worked for the Hatchet, I covered women’s basketball, baseball, soccer, women’s lacrosse, and volleyball. Junior and senior years, I covered both the men and the women for the flash in the pan, Daily Colonial. I spent more time in the Smith Center than I did in my dorm room. I would put my home contests attended in Smitty at over 100, add in Volleyball and Water Polo and the number gets insane.
One thing you try to manage when you’re an aspiring journalist during college is not rooting for your school. It can be hard at times. I rushed the court freshman year when TJ Thompson hit a game winning shot over Dayton. Truth be told it was the last time I ever sat in the student section. Same year, I somewhat celebrated Anna Montanana hitting a game winning prayer from mid-court over Xavier. As I got older and the years progressed, I did get better at separating the idea of school spirit from my work, which was to cover the team. I became friendly with the players, but they knew when the red light of the tape recorder was on, it was business time.
When you are working the beat, one of the things you pick up on is how an athletic department works. My wife (who I met at GW) will probably be upset that I am using this cliche but once you see how the sausage is made, it changes your perspective on things. I got to know Jack Kvancz, and Karl Hobbs relatively well; I respected them and appreciated what they had done for the schools basketball programs. As I penned in my farewell column, Joe McKeown, was a very special person in my college life, and his lessons taught me a lot about how to be a leader and a good person. I was upset when he left, because lets be frank, I am not sure the school made the effort to keep him. When Karl Hobbs was fired, I wasn’t sure how to feel. While he had taken GW to the mountaintop I knew that a lot of it was based on a recruiting well that was well, tainted. Once that well dried up, I kind of knew that the end was coming. I ran into him last year, he was very cordial. But as I remarked earlier, once you see the nitty-gritty of something, how do you then put that in the back of your mind and in this case openly root for your school? A question that obviously I am still dealing with today.
So I departed Foggy Bottom in July 2007. A few weeks later I packed up a Uhaul, and headed north from my house in Long Island, NY to Syracuse. I had been accepted into law school, and started a few days after my arrival. I had never been to Syracuse, never visited, had done minimal research and was generally beginning a very odd adventure. What I did know: the men’s basketball team was ridiculously good. Naturally, as I enjoy sports I immediately gravitated to them. The first year was hard to get to the Dome, because of the workload. But every game is on TV, every single game. By second and third year I was going to as many games as I could get tickets to. Also its not hard to become a big fan when your rooting for one of the best teams in the country with some of the best players: Johnny Flynn, AO (Arinze Onuaku,) Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, Donte Green, Wes Johnson, personal favorite Andy Rautins, KoJo (Kris Joseph), and a young Brandon Triche. To my credit, it’s not like these teams really disappointed very much and lets just say the Dome (aka Live at Loud House) is a tad more exciting than Smitty for a men’s game. With the law school literally being next door to the Dome, the opportunity to attend games and with my boy Lawson having the hook-up on tickets, it was natural to attend a bunch of games. I even got to attend the 2010 win against UConn, in which I was included in the largest on-campus NCAA crowd in history.
I still follow the team today, and again the run to the Final Four or Sweet 16 isn’t really hurting my Cuse fandom.
After I left the Cuse, I spent a few years in New Jersey. They were uneventful, but still I could have seen GW live on many occasions, but I just didn’t have the motivation to attend. Last February, when my wife started her new career in the D.C. area, we moved back. I got a tour from college friend Dave Earl of the Smith Center renovations. I could have attended some games, but I just didn’t feel comfortable. It was nice to walk through the building and see the banners, it felt like home, well it looked like a refinished version of home, and it was nice to say hi to Sarah Jo Lawrence but I felt uneasy. I continued to avoid.
When Barcroft Park opened later that spring, I felt I had to attend. I loved getting the assignment to cover the baseball team, but the facilities were always so awful, it was nearly impossible to actually enjoy the games. Kvancz and I spoke at length about a stadium, and it was really awesome to see Patrick Nero come in and get that done. The stadium is beautiful and I can’t wait to come back out this Spring for a game. (Can I bring my dog?)
Late in the Summer, I started to think what I would do when basketball season rolled around, would I want to go to games? Could I go to games? Can I walk into the arena and actually enjoy the games?
Well things got even weirder when in September I took a job with the most hated rival of both GW and Syracuse: BIG BAD GEORGETOWN (hoyasaxa!?!). I now have pretty accessible tickets to almost every GU game, two blocks from my office (Verizon). Would I really go and enjoy a Hoyas game before I came back to the Smith Center?
In October, I was in the Smith Center helping out my kid brother at an event. I sat out our booth, reviewed the new names in the A-10, looked at the banners, walked around the concourses, and took in the day. I again wasn’t ready to commit.
This season is now going strong, both the men’s and ladies teams are off to strong starts. Well, I still haven’t attended a home game, my excuse: I am busy at work and at home. Reality: I am not sure I am ready to go to Smitty.
Its hard to explain...I want to go, I love my school. GW was the place that has given me my best friends, the groomsmen's for my wedding, my wife, a lot of the life skills I have used and truly I love to #RaiseHigh. I talk up GW in person and on social media a lot, recently those supporting attitudes seem hollow to me. I am the guy who loves his school but can’t bring himself to buy a ticket to a men’s or women's game?
So back to the beginning, is it finally time to come home again? Can I be the guy who roots openly for the Colonials, as I have done for the Orange the last 6 years? To be honest, I am not sure. I haven’t openly rooted for the Colonials, in what feels like a decade, I have never paid for a ticket.
Thinking more about this Sunday as the men upset Creighton, am I merely avoiding my school and Smitty because I am not ready to give up my journalistic roots? Seems to be a reasonable thought. I left a career in journalism because I was seeing to many sports writers being laid off by their papers. A few months ago I started writing for a sports-technology blog and I have done some reporting. Would putting on a tri-pointed hat signal the end of that? At this point it feels going to Smitty would finally be the end. Maybe its time to move on from what was.
Another factor: the basketball teams haven’t been super competitive over the last several years. Now that both teams are having an upswing, maybe its time to join the bandwagon while I still can. What Coach Lonergan, Coach Tsipis and especially, AD Nero have done for GW athletics is truly amazing so maybe it is time to wipe the memories away and live in the present. Its not like the memories are bad (for instance they include, so many great plays by Big Shot Carl, Mike, Pops, Omar, J.R. and the King of Bade, and on the ladies side include so many exciting games with Whit, Kim, the Adairs, Anna, and Cole than I can even remember). This leads me to the only life lesson I can take from this: don’t let your past cloud the opportunity for enjoyment. Everything that has made you the person, even as fan, should not hinder your ability to enjoy what is in front of you at this moment. Our lives remain in front of us everyday, go out and live it, and maybe you can let the shackles of the past stop you from moving forward.
So come Wednesday night, December fourth, I am going to trek across town, have a beer at the Red Lion, buy a ticket, and watch the guys try to beat Rutgers. I am going to sing the fight song and hum along to the band. I am going to learn the new players names and enjoy the game. It is time to come home, its time to let what was be just that, and finally it is time to #RaiseHigh once more.