Georgetown men’s basketball kicks off its season this Friday with a road game at Old Dominion as the Hoyas will try to avenge last year’s defeat to the Monarchs at McDonough Arena. Sadly, it appears that game will be the last men’s basketball contest I ever witness in tiny McDonough. Georgetown will play every home game this year downtown at Verizon Center.
This may hardly seem like a big deal to many of you. Georgetown men’s basketball is now firmly associated with Verizon Center, and the Hoyas haven’t played regularly at McDonough in 30 years. But the two unremarkable games I have attended in McDonough – a 110-51 blowout of Radford in 2007 and last year’s sloppy loss to Old Dominion – will always rank among my most cherished memories of men’s basketball at Georgetown.
While the Hoyas haven’t always played their best ball at McDonough, the gymnasium gives Georgetown a true home court advantage. At Verizon Center, the student sections comprise a small fraction of the overall seating, but at McDonough, Georgetown students make up the vast majority of the crowd. This means that McDonough can become deafening as the chants and screams reverberate in the small building. You can literally feel the enthusiasm as the bleachers shake when students jump up and down after a big play.
Many of the people who attend games at Verizon Center do so just as a means of entertainment without truly being invested in Georgetown basketball. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a young professional wanting to watch a good college basketball game on a Saturday, but it bothers me that the best seats in the house – those along the court, not at the ends – are essentially reserved for the wealthy, not the students. I know this is a reality dictated by revenues, but it comes with a price that can’t be measured in dollars.
Furthermore, Verizon Center’s atmosphere takes away much of the charm of college basketball. The arena is made for professional basketball. NBA games are more shows than athletic events, as evidence by the JumboTron, electronic music and constant advertisements that take away from the game itself. College basketball is supposed to represent purer basketball, shorn of all the excess entertainment. Google an image of the inside of Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler plays, and you’ll see a basketball gym where the court is the focus. At Verizon Center and other professional arenas, the court is just one aspect of a mammoth complex that serves many different functions. How can it be a place that a basketball team can truly call home?
Lastly, there’s the fact that McDonough is actually on our campus. When the Hoyas have played there in the past, teams have to physically come on to our campus to play us. The gym represents a part of our community – a place we see practically every day. In many ways, Verizon Center is essentially a neutral site that Georgetown happens to be close to. Anybody could play there since it’s only a building and not a part of a whole.
I’m not naive. I know McDonough is far too small for the Hoyas to play there regularly and maximize profits, which, as I have argued before, is essentially the purpose of modern big-time college basketball programs. And with our minuscule endowment, there is no hope of a larger gymnasium being built that would be big enough to consistently house the Hoyas.
But even one game a season in McDonough is enough to remind us of what college basketball really should be. No people dancing furiously to try to land a spot on the JumboTron. No fans sitting courtside silently glued to their seats. No silly races of 3-year-olds trying to put on oversized clothing and make a layup. Just a good old basketball game, surrounded by a community of Georgetown students cheering on our Hoyas in a building we can truly call our own.
I guess that’s simply too much to ask for nowadays.
Parimal Garg is a senior in the College. TAKING THE COURT appears every third issue of HOYA SPORTS.