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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sports and Society: Hellenizing college basketball


I have a friend who goes to Georgetown, a still-great school with a once-great basketball program. Aside from weekly Celtics mental health check-ins, an ever-increasing proportion of our conversations consist of three words, unmatched in history in their titanic importance: 

Fire Patrick Ewing. 

The once-great Georgetown center, who brutalized the Big East for four straight years in the early eighties and now coaches the men’s basketball team as maybe the most overcompensated person in the history of human beings paying each other for things, has driven my friend beyond any reasonable level of madness. He is a tragic hero, trying to save his beloved from ruin. And he has found his malefactor.

On Saturday, Georgetown’s women’s basketball team was obliterated 69–39 by UConn in the Big East tournament. Not to be outdone, Ewing and Co. managed to lose to Creighton by a staggering 40 points earlier in the week to add to their sterling 7–24 record. It truly is tragic how far Georgetown basketball has fallen from grace. If the Hoyas are on their hero’s journey, this is the abyss. 

Georgetown’s turn for the dramatic is what I love about college basketball. In the weeks leading up to the March Madness tournament, college basketball begins its ascent to bombastic insanity, and my pet theory that the whole sport is the closest thing America has to Greek mythology rises up from the ashes.

March Madness is a highlight of the sports calendar chiefly because it is chaotic. It represents the uncontrolled demolition of order in the sports world. Undefeated titans fall to mere mortals, and promising contenders meet their prophesied demises. It pits generations of collegiate supporters against each other in 67 single-elimination, winner-take-all games. 

Even though the Hoyas haven’t a snowball’s chance in Hades of making the tournament, they have had a nice, tragedy-laden season for outsiders like myself to enjoy. But they are far from my favorite Greek myth of championship week. Enter the women’s SEC tournament, which on Saturday asked Dionysus for some wine and started doing backflips. 

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers, with a truly awesome upset over LSU in the SEC tournament, punched their ticket to face the South Carolina Gamecocks in the final. The Lady Vols have felled one of the two beasts from the south, but beating South Carolina would have been a truly Herculean task. Either way, by erasing a 17-point deficit as huge underdogs, they are my heroes for the foreseeable future. 

Even still, the defending champion Gamecocks have seemed inevitable the entire year, furiously ripping through their schedule like an act of God to land on a perfect 32–0 record. Will they storm through March Madness with as much fury, or will hubris sink the impossibly great South Carolinians?

For LSU, the loss exemplified the sheer agony of defeat at the doorstep of glory. The loss spells doom for any real hope LSU had of securing a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and was an emotionally crushing defeat in a game they controlled by as many as 17 points. However much you believe college basketball is governed by Olympus, important to any mythology or sporting event is momentum, and LSU just lost all of theirs. 

Beware the Ides of March. Oh, and while you’re at it, fire Patrick Ewing.