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March 14, 2016 / Jackie Grady

What defeat feels like

I sat stunned, furiously trying to enlarge the leaked NCAA bracket: “There’s no way the Bonnies didn’t make it but ‘Cuse did?  How can they keep a regular season A10 champ out?”  My throat and stomach tightened.  But I sat and continued to watch the CBS Bracket show which was the most agonizing piece of invented television programming ever.  Then solemnly I hit the power off button.  I allowed the silence to crush me.  There would be no dance.  No gleeful Facebook posts and no texts reconnecting with my college friends as we together, from miles apart, cheered on our beloved Bonnies.

Unlike four years ago, there would be no few glorious days of March to revel in college basketball’s ultimate stage.   I felt anger, disappointment and, at times, rage.  As a former athlete at St. Bonaventure and competitor at heart, I also know that in the game, you must take care of the outcome yourself.  When you don’t do enough to win, you leave the results in the hands of someone else.  And someone else, the NCAA, is not in your corner.   But in my heart, I knew the Bonnies were robbed.  Victimized along with Monmouth and South Carolina.

I heard how the campus dining hall was silent when it became apparent that the Bonnies weren’t selected.  My heart ached for those students because at Bonaventure, regardless of when you graduated, the Bona experience is shared like a family heirloom, passed along from class to class.  I wanted the bars in Allegany to be full on Thursday as students cheered their school while us alumns cheered through social media.

Now St. Bonaventure was relegated to the consolation prize, the NIT.  I heard demands to boycott it as an act of defiance against the NCAA. I disagreed.  I thought of the team itself.  The hours the players spent in the weight room, running the stairs in the RC, sitting in ice baths in the training room.  Those players deserved more games.  More victories.

Sport reflects life.  It’s in our biggest disappointments, our largest defeats that show our character.  And then I heard about the students.  The ticket line for the first NIT game was out the door.  The student section sold out in 2 hours.  The ticket office worked extra to fill demand.  There was a game Wednesday. My rage softened and my Franciscan values poured in.  I realized then that I would be sitting there on Wednesday night, computer in hand, sharing the NIT run with my classmates.  Let’s go Bonas!

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