A couple of weeks ago, on a bitter cold Friday night in early October on the Evergreen campus, my friends and I attended the first home men’s basketball game of the season.
Before college, I was never interested in the slightest in basketball (unless you count my less-than-stellar third grade performance as my team’s center, which included scoring a basket for the opposing team). But as the basketball season approached last year, I quickly realized the sport’s centrality to the famous Greyhound school spirit.
In 2011, the Greyhounds began the season unranked, basically unnoticed by the nation and the authorities in college basketball. But in March, the team won the MAAC championship played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994, almost as long as I’ve been alive.
I’ll never forget watching that game, as our 15 seed Hounds took on number 2 seed Ohio State in Pittsburgh. Though the outcome of the game seemed to be apparent prior to the game even to the most optimistic SuperFans, we all still gathered to watch the game with as much love and passion for our hometown Hounds as we have ever garnered before.
Sports analysts attribute a lot of the credit for the success of last year’s team to Jimmy Patsos, our beloved coach, and one who is widely recognized as among the best in college basketball. While I love and admire Jimmy Patsos just as much as any other Loyola student (and I may or may not wear a t-shirt with his face on it and allow myself to be a little starstruck when I see him around campus on occasion), I give just as much credit to the team of amazing men.
Comprised of students from all years, I had never seen such amazing camaraderie among a group of athletes, and I truly believe that their love for each other and commitment to Loyola and its Jesuit ideals guided their path to the NCAA Tournament. To read a little bit more about the inner-workings of the Greyhounds, you can check out the blog of Erik Etherly, a starting forward on the team.
Well, needless to say, after all of the excitement for the team last year (and some very passionate and hard-working SuperFans who graduated), I wasn’t sure that basketball would have as much excitement surrounding it this year as it did last year. I could not have been more wrong.
Walking into Reitz Arena half an hour early on Friday night, we just barely secured seats in the student section, and even those were on the bleachers. But the only thing that mattered to me was being surrounded by a sea of green and proud Hounds cheering on the team that could.
Prior to the game, University President Father Linnane and Coach Jimmy Patsos together unfurled the NCAA banner from last year to resounding cheers from the entire arena. The game was jam-packed with the spirited marching band from a Baltimore middle school, the Loyola Dance Team and Cheerleaders, competitions during time-outs for students and local youths who came out to watch with their families, and, of course, the Hounds’ 71-45 win over Binghamton.
The next day, students received an email thanking us for supporting the team. With the distribution of over 900 (free!) student tickets (that’s almost 1/4 of the undergraduate population!), a new record was set for attendance at a home basketball game. What can we say? We were just doing our job.