Straight A: From the Atlantic 10 Tournament

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I was hours late, the kind of late where you excuse yourself to your date, and explain, “Well, I was caught in traffic, and…” feel emasculated, and glad you left the practice of safe sex within the confines of your own home in a box inside of your chest of drawers. That’s where a lie is created that lasts throughout an entire relationship, as long as you can pull it off to get a second date.

But as the grim and fantastic façade of the Barclays Center and I stared at each other, an uneasy silence seeped across the sidewalk. I looked at my dirty white sneakers flatfooted on the pavement and thought about how different fucking a person was compared to fucking an entire city.

However, this is what happens when you’re dealing with St. Joseph’s and Xavier, and you’re arriving at halftime of the third game of the Atlantic 10 conference men’s basketball tournament.

The thousands of LCD lanterns illuminated the outside of the arena glanced at me, and with that unsupportive, knowing glow, trickled onward. As a Bostonian, I have a very concrete concept of what an arena should look like, so I took a picture with my phone and sent it to my mother. Guiltily, I tumbled across the street, through loose security, into an empty conclave at the mast of a brilliant, post-modern arena. Like I said, I was late, and judging from the crowds around the concessions stands, as was everyone else, and the support for “Nay-Than’s Hot Dogs!” above all others was clear towards the early part of that evening session. The gray walls of the arena’s interior lent as well to a modern art museum as a sporting venue.

The chants for hot dogs would continue, as Xavier took over in the first half.

Settling down eventually, there seemed to be no real fan unity within the ranks until competition rose through the second half of the game. Grabbing a domestic draft, the atmosphere in the newly built stadium was that of a loose barbecue, where that one person is like, “What is [your ex-girlfriend] up to?” and you have to smile, and order a Bud Light, because otherwise they’ll be stabbed in the throat. Whomever was manning the advanced statistics window for the arena had the kindness to subtract the teams’ field goal percentage from appearing around the arena it does with Nets games. Regardless of shot percentage, it became a seriously thrilling matchup.

Despite the sparsely populated thruways, St. Joseph’s had a significant advantage in the crowd, whose support was unanimous, likely backed by the closeness of their Philadelphian university compared to their fellow Jesuit ranks, whose backers had to travel from the middle west. Why would you ever want to leave Ohio?

Through the second half, St. Joseph’s mounted an adept comeback, taking advantage of horrible slips in the Xavier offense and scoring on those easy turnovers.

Down nine, the Hawks came back to take a four point lead with 7:44 left in the second half. A base appeared for their weak fandom, and finally decided to cheer for their local patriots. Across my section of the arena, a group of rebel rousers began chanting, “Let’s go, VCU,” and it overwhelmed the live instrumentation of a Jock Jams song that was happening concurrently. It was sheer, chaotic magic. What a bunch of bastards.

Across the river inside of Madison Square Garden, another series of blowouts occurred simultaneously, as former president and NAFTA-maven William Jefferson Clinton watched on, eating a custom vegan something or other, looking on as Louisville trounced the poor Villanovans.

As you well know, St. Joseph’s ended up winning by one point on a late game series of free throws. The Hawks’ section came alive at once, and concurrently, my friend Alex arrived. A VCU alum, he had invited me down for the tournament to allow me to experience the glory of college basketball. I had been unconvinced through the game, but it was working out now. After that, a large white man’s open layup was missed with a second left, and replayed in his dreams forever more, as a series of failures in his life was summed up in one, very public embarrassment. I felt for that young man’s pain, and headed to the VCU alumni meetup at a large German bier hall, where things took a turn for the worse.

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