Sunday, December 18, 2011

College Basketball in the Eyes of a Child (Recap of Binghamton vs. Hofstra)

With the eyes of a child
You must come out and see
That your world's spinning 'round
And through life you will be
A small part
Of a hope
Of a love
That exists
In the eyes of a child you will see  
"Eyes of a Child" by the Moody Blues
My life forever changed on July 26, 2005.  My first child, my older son Matthew was born.  When you are a parent, everything else in life happily takes a backseat to your children.  Things that used to bother you to no end are now inconsequential.  Your children's lives are the most precious thing to you and you want to be able to understand what they see.

For the better part of last season, I wanted Matthew to come to a basketball game with me. Matthew loves baseball and I thought he would enjoy college basketball even more.  But each and every time Matthew said no, for one reason or another.  Finally, on my birthday this year as a birthday present to me, Matthew came to the William and Mary vs. Hofstra basketball game.  I couldn't have picked a more exciting contest for Matthew to see as Charles Jenkins hit two buzzer beaters, one in regulation and one in overtime as the Pride defeated the Tribe.

My older son was hooked.  Even before the game ended, Matthew asked if he could come to the next game.  After the game, he raced around the basket by the Hofstra bench with other children.  When he came home, he played basketball in the living room until he went asleep.  Then the next day, he played basketball again, and the day after, and so on and so forth.  It was as if a whole new world was opened to him.

He came to the rest of the Hofstra home games last season.  When I went to the CAA Tournament in Richmond, he was very upset that he couldn't go.  I had to call him with updates of the Hofstra  vs. William and Mary quarterfinal. Then I called him after Hofstra lost to Old Dominion.  He couldn't understand that Hofstra's season ended.  Matthew didn't understand Kyle Whelliston's phrase that "the season always ends in loss".  As a result, he ended up going with me to a couple of Iona CIT tournament games.  He took up rooting for VCU in the NCAA tournament since VCU played in Hofstra's conference.  The kid was all into college hoops and very disappointed when the season ended.

This season, Matthew has attended all the Hofstra home games.  And you can find him intensely watching the game, cheering for Hofstra, raising his fingers when they shoot a free throw, or conversing with my friend Mal who he always sits next to for the games.   And he always has his pretzel and a bottle of water.  It's his pre-game ritual.

I always spend time during a Hofstra home game tweeting game updates to "My Marines", aka the few, the proud, my @gmoore21566 twitter followers.  But I realized during the game vs. James Madison that Matthew was conversing more with Mal than me on the game.  I wasn't jealous, but I felt bad that I was giving Matthew the attention he deserved.

Thus I decided that this Saturday I was going to spend the entire game conversing with Matthew about the basketball game.  I announced to my twitter followers that I wasn't going to tweet updates from the Binghamton - Hofstra game.  It gave me a further idea to write a recap around Matthew's view of the game.

Friday night, my family joined my department staff and I as we celebrated another successful end to another semester at a local restaurant.  There, I told Matthew of my plan to write a story about the game from his view.  I told him that I am writing an article for my site and for my friend's site and it's going to be about the Hofstra game from his perspective.

Matthew's response was "What's perspective mean?"

Yes, I often forget that he is only six years old.  After telling him what that meant, he nodded his head in approval of the idea.  Matthew was a willing subject for my latest recap.

When I picked him up Saturday afternoon from a playdate from his friend Brian's house, I could tell that he needed a nap before the game.  Sure enough, he fell asleep immediately in the backseat of my car.  When I got to the parking lot outside of the Mack Center about forty minutes before game time, I waited in the car so he could get a few extra Zs.  Finally I woke up Matthew and we headed in.

I got him his usual pretzel and water and we headed inside the arena.  It was free Hofstra cap day, so we each grabbed one and made our way to our seats thirty minutes before game time.  Matthew wasted no time in eating his pretzel.  I asked him "What do you think about today's game?"  With no hesitation, he replied "I don't know.  I will tell you when the game starts."

A few minutes later, Binghamton went onto the court and practiced shooting at the Hofstra basket. Matthew took a break from his pretzel and stated. "I will tell you one thing.  I am watching this team practice."  And he did exactly that, as he watched the Bearcats intently while noshing on his snack.

A few years ago, the Bearcats were the best team in the America East.  The coach at that time, Kevin Broadus brought a group of transfers and some recruits from some questionable diploma mill schools.  There were warning signs with the program as early as February 2009.  But Broadus was able to get Binghamton to win the America East championship and they went on to lose to Duke in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

But a few months later, the roof caved in on Broadus and the Bearcats' basketball program.  Several players were kicked off the team.  There were recruiting violations and a subsequent independent review of the basketball team.  Athletic Director Joel Shirer resigned, then shortly thereafter Broadus was put on an indefinite leave of absence and eventually was let go of his position.  The February 2010 independent audit report cited Binghamton's president Lois B. DeFleur, and Shirer for a lack oversight over the basketball program.  DeFleur resigned at the end of the Spring 2010 semester.

Since then, Binghamton's basketball team has declined steadily. The Bearcats were 13-18 in the 2009-10 season, 8-23 last season and so far were 0-7 this season coming into the game vs. Hofstra.  Ken Pomeroy ranked them 338th out of 345 Division I teams coming into Saturday's game. With the exception of their first loss to Colgate by four points, all their other losses were by fourteen points or more.

But last season at home, they forced overtime against Hofstra before eventually losing.  And that Pride team had two time CAA Player of the Year Charles Jenkins.  This season, with Jenkins now in the NBA, Hofstra entered the contest vs. Binghamton having lost four games in a row.  It seemed if the Bearcats might have a fighting chance in this game.

In the first few minutes of the game, Matthew noted to Mal and me "Why doesn't it say Hofstra on the scoreboard?"  And sure enough, he was right.  Normally, the scoreboard says "Hofstra" and the name of the school of the opponent.  But yesterday, it said "Pride" and "Bearcats".  Perhaps Binghamton was too long of a name for the scoreboard.  But only Matthew noticed, not the two forty plus year old adults sitting next to him.

As for the game itself, Hofstra went out to a 15-6 lead but Binghamton managed to cut the lead to 18-15.  During this time, Matthew yelled out "Mike Moore, where are you?" And sure enough, Mike Moore answered the call.  Moore would hit three of his four first half three pointers over the span of about seven minutes as part of a 15-3 Pride run.  The Pride were up 33-18 with four and half minutes left and Matthew blurted out "Hofstra is going to score 100."    Mal and I both laughed as Hofstra would end the half up 40-28.

At halftime, a Farmingdale PAL team played on the court.  I asked Matthew if he wished he was on the court playing.  Matthew turned to me and said "Oh yeah.  I could easily score in this game."  He had all the confidence of Mike Moore playing against Binghamton.

Apparently the Bearcats didn't get the message at halftime from Coach Mark Macon that they should shutdown Moore from the outside.  He hit three more three pointers to start the second half and the Pride went up 49-33.  With a little less than four minutes into the second half, Moore had tied the Hofstra record for most three pointers in a game with seven.

Every time Moore hit a three pointer, the Lions Den Student Section, or what there was of it due to finals, would chant "We Want Moore! We want Moore!"  And every time, Matthew would do a little dance in his seat in honor of his favorite player.

Things would not get any better for Binghamton.  Hofstra would go up by as many as twenty four, 61-37 with ten minutes remaining.  It was during this stretch where the Bearcats turned the ball over three times in about two minutes.  Out of complete disbelief, I turned to Mal and simply stated "Binghamton sucks."

I realized right then and there that was something I shouldn't have said in front of Matthew.  Immediately I said to Matthew "You didn't hear that."

Matthew came back with a big smile.  "Oh, I heard that."   Mal did his best to try to ease the situation, jokingly saying "Your dad was saying that Binghamton was good."

Matthew immediately turned and gave me an incredulous look that normally only my wife would give me. It was right then and there I knew how much Matthew was like his mommy.  The conversation ended there.

The Bearcats actually showed some heart the last ten minutes of the game. They actually cut the lead to fourteen, 70-56 before Hofstra coach Mo Cassara called time to get his team's mindset back in order.  It seemed to do the trick as the Pride got the lead back up to twenty and would go onto win 82-62.

The game was not exactly pretty as both teams combined for thirty five turnovers.   Hofstra did shoot fifty percent from the field, including eleven of twenty from beyond the arc.  Moore was unreal for the Pride, scoring thirty two points, shooting seven of eleven from beyond the arc.

Binghamton was led by Robert Mansell with nineteen points.  Their leading scorer on the season, Ben Dickinson was frustrated all day and held to half his season scoring average with seven points.  He showed hist frustration with a technical foul and then later fouled out on a flagrant foul.  Dickinson wasn't the only one to show his frustration.  One Binghamton fan showed up with a bag on his head.  He left before the game ended.

As we left the arena and headed out to our car on a cold December night, I asked Matthew what he thought of the game.  Matthew said "It was great.  It was everything I wished for."   For a six year old boy, he got what he wanted.  After losing four games in a row, his Hofstra team finally won.   And for him, that's all that matters.

No comments:

Post a Comment