Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Villanova Life Validated

"Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays"

Monday is a dreary day of the week. Every Monday go back to work, or school, airports and highways are crowded with jerkoffs, the Squan Tavern is closed, and your fat, lasagna loving cartoon cat with no job or hobbies is extremely surly. 

For those of us who are Villanova fans  though, Monday April 4, 2016 was different. Oh, boy was it different. 

A Villanova Son (and grandson, and nephew)

For all of my memory, I have been a Villanova fan. If my grandfather had gone to Seton Hall, St. John's, or Fordham instead of Villanova, I doubt that I would have been born. If my father hadn't gone to Villanova, I would be a Seton Hall fan (a fate less than nonexistence). If my uncle hadn't taken my six year old self to a Villanova game turned Kerry Kittles aerial exhibition on a cold January day in 1995, I wouldn't be writing these words on a fifth-tier Villanova blog that I somehow found the motivation to update regularly for five and a half years. If I hadn't gone to Villanova myself, I wouldn't have almost all of my friends. 

There is a scene near the end of the movie Field of Dreams, when Ray Kinsella, (Kevin Costner) is being pressured by his dickhead brother-in-law (Timothy Busfield) to sell the farm that he has turned into a baseball field or face eviction, Terrance Mann (James Early Jones), an iconic author turned recluse that Kinsella has befriended tells him:
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again."
Swap baseball with Villanova basketball, and change the context to simply my life and you have something. During the most difficult times of my life, Villanova has provided me an escape, a source of joy, a way to put things in context. Even when the season is over, I know that another season will be there right around the corner, and with that new season will bring new joys. Villanova is a part of my identity, far more than whatever setback I may have to deal with. Unlike an ex-girlfriend, Villanova basketball will be there.

That Villanova plays such an part role in my life and my own personal identity is why Monday night was so special. In so many ways, Villanova is responsible for who I am, how I think of myself, and the way that I spend two and a half hours of my time on 30-40 days of the year. It doesn't matter to me if they go under .500 and are maddening to watch or if something magical like Monday happens, because either way, it is something that happens, something that is a part of who I am, and something that will always be there.

Moving Forward

There is no doubt after Monday, some people, most of whom only care about Villanova when they are nationally ranked will become loud with their outsized expectations and expect a national championship every few years, hopefully realistic people will keep things in perspective.

Villanova men's Track and Field/Cross Country coach once shared advice that his mentor, Villanova alum and Irish Olympian Donal Walsh gave him when he was about to leave Ireland to go to Villanova. It is far more relevant for track than it is for basketball, but it is relevant nonetheless.
"Don't be discouraged, but they have nothing ... and everything you need."
Compared to its peer schools, Villanova has plenty, but compared to Kentucky and their 24,000 seat home arena and insane players-only dormitory, Villanova has nothing. Villanova offers players a first rate basketball program, an elite education, a great practice facility, very good coaching and athletic training, and a freshman year in the cramped confines of Stanford Hall. Villanova basketball players go to orientation as freshmen with regular students, and take more than six credit hours in the fall semester of their freshman years. These are athletes, but Villanova has an expectation that they will graduate.

Villanova is not the easy path to the NBA for a recruit. Therefore, they will not always get the perfect storm of circumstances that led to Monday. In a way though, that might just make something like Monday even sweeter than it would how it would feel if we were fans of Big State U.