When I was asked to write this column a few weeks ago, choosing a general topic was fairly easy. The day I decided to write about my favorite Georgetown sports moment was when it got tough.
Covering the women’s soccer team’s Elite Eight run last year was certainly enjoyable, but my mind eventually turned — as most minds do when thinking about Georgetown athletics — to the men’s basketball team. And after four years of up-and-down play, nothing stuck out in my mind more than one winter week in 2010 that turned out to be, in some ways, a microcosm of my Georgetown fan experience.
That week, the Hoyas went 2-1. Coming off an embarrassing road loss to No. 4 Syracuse that featured a blown 14-0 lead, the Blue and Gray thrashed No. 8 Duke — always a fun time — followed that up with an inexplicable loss to South Florida and avenged an earlier loss by pummeling No. 2 Villanova at Verizon Center.
The circumstances of that week made the experience all the more memorable. Coming off a year that featured a horrible second-half collapse, the team needed to prove to itself and to its fans that it was for real. The Hoyas had cruised through the early portion of their schedule, winning 11 of their first 12 games, including wins over highly touted and top-ranked teams in Butler and Washington.
But coming into the Duke game, Georgetown had a far more pedestrian 4-3 record in its last seven games, even though that stretch had featured games against four ranked teams.
Many people despise the Blue Devils, and I’m no exception. My distaste for Coach K and his merry band of generally loathsome players (whom I’m sure I’d be ambivalent about were they to play for, say, Wake Forest) had been nurtured through several years of cheering for Boston College, which also plays in the ACC.
It hadn’t felt personal, though, until the previous year, when a 12-3 Georgetown squad rolled into Cameron Indoor, only to be undone by a combination of Gerald Henderson’s scoring and some creative refereeing. A Georgetown comeback was abruptly halted after Greg Monroe — already sitting on the bench with three fouls — got a technical foul for, as far as anyone can tell, absolutely nothing. There was a palpable sense that the team had been robbed of a shot at glory.
The loss — and therefore that decisive moment, in the weird, weird world of the obsessive sports fan — sent the Hoyas into a tailspin. They would end the year 16-13, although they had been 12-4 before the game. Unwilling to blame the collapse on the Georgetown players or coaches, I — along with many others, I think — blamed Duke for the ill that had befallen the team.
That is the long way of saying that everyone was really, really looking forward to the Hoyas’ exacting revenge on the Blue Devils for their prior transgressions, both real and imagined. President Obama’s attendance at the game added an extra level of intensity to the experience. And boy, did the Hoyas ever show up. The Blue and Gray scored early and often, shooting nearly 72 percent from the field. They took the lead for good midway through the first half and spent the rest of the game making the Blue Devils look generally incompetent before a late, garbage-time run by the visitors cut the final margin of victory to 12.
Just a week later, the Hoyas scored a staggering 103 points against Villanova, dealing the Wildcats just their second loss of the year. Much like Obama’s presence made the Duke win so memorable, the snowpocalyptic blanket over the District made this game even more remarkable.
Despite the snow and the non-operational GUTS buses, Verizon Center was rocking, and the Hoyas rewarded their dedicated fans with an outrageous offensive display that put everything else they did that year to shame. Up 50-33 at halftime, the Blue and Gray somehow scored more points than that in the next 20 minutes and turned the second half into something of a victory lap.
The loss to South Florida sandwiched in between those two games is equally memorable, though, and not just because of USF guard Dominique Jones’ scintillating performance. No, that game sticks out in my mind because it is what makes that week a perfect metaphor for my experience as a Georgetown fan.
That week featured the unbelievable highs of running two highly ranked rivals completely out of the gym, but it also included one of the more random losses of my time here. For four years I’ve followed — and, this year, covered — the men’s basketball team closely. I’ve spent more time than I care to think about on Casual Hoya, HoyaTalk and every other Georgetown news or discussion source I could find.
And after four years, I can’t help but feel a vague sense of disappointment. Much as that awesome week was ever-so-slightly marred by the loss to USF, my Georgetown fandom has seen just one NCAA tournament win. But like that week, though, my obsession has been unquestionably worth it.
The disappointment comes from falling short of expectations, but that is only because of the high hopes I have maintained for the team. In my experience, those standards have been absolutely worth it. They injected a sense of urgency into each game, and with that came a sense of importance, at least for the sports fans on the Hilltop.
In some sense, these two qualities — urgency and importance — are what make sports special. I can’t explain the appeal of sports to the nonbelievers among you, and I won’t try here. Sports are full of emotional swings, and following Georgetown basketball has been no different.
I hope that next year this space will be filled with reflections on postseason success; for now, though, this is all I have. I’ve lived and breathed Georgetown basketball to a fault, and I’d do it all over again.
Maybe with more postseason wins, though.
Lawson Ferguson is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a former sports blog editor and deputy sports editor for The Hoya.