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#Winning vs. Losing

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It happens with sports. There’s a winner, and a loser – and sometimes, there are ties (re: soccer). The emotional side of sports makes whatever team you are cheering for, against or working for, exciting. The competitiveness outside of the game itself can involve anything from friendly bets, like wearing a rival t-shirt as a penalty, to betting on a game for high stakes and monetary value.

via rogersmith’s Flickr

But what do these games really do to us? Does winning and losing affect us more than we think? Is it more than just a game?

Let’s look at the evidence of these past few weeks. Its the time when you get to see grown men outright cry in happiness, sadness and any other emotion you can think of.

Starting with post season play, there is a lot that factors in. For example, after the Big East tournament, we see great players like St. John’s DJ Kennedy who tore his ACL, Chris Wright from Georgetown with a broken hand, and Kyrie Irving from Duke, still unable to play to support their respective teams. It can take a toll on not only the players involved, but their fan base who support them. No one wants to see anyone get hurt on the court, and for players like Kelsey Barlow from Purdue who makes mistakes off the court, well, that affects us, too.

96 hours of watching basketball non-stop…I have some thoughts:

Having worked the regional bracket in Washington, DC this past week, emotions were high then, too. The media relations and operations volunteer staff, led by Mex Carey, Georgetown Basketball’s SID, had one job to do. Make sure everything goes according to plan and keep everyone happy. Not an easy feat, but was accomplished, employing a staff that is hard working, and when given a task, can be trusted that it will be completed to the best of the staffers ability. Not only was there stress from a working stand point, the NCAA president was there, making sure everything was going according to plan. That, of course, put pressure on us to make sure things were going by the book. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is in charge, and in control, for a reason.

But from a fans perspective, emotions can take over. Think of it as if you were a Pittsburgh fan, with high expectations, who came up short to a last second call to a team like Butler. A Horizon league contender, who was not always in the spotlight during the year, despite being runners up last year to the National Champions, Duke in 2010.

Crushed, disappointed, anger, hatred, all words that come to mind after a loss like that. But what about if you’re a Butler fan? They had something to prove, as do many smaller leagues in college basketball. Traveling to DC, 492 miles away from their campus in Indianapolis, Indiana, knowing you might match up with a strong possible final four contender, and come out on top.

How would you feel? What about Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams, a play-in team, new to the tournament in the last couple of years. They are proving all experts wrong and making a bigger name for what it means to be a solid Cinderella team. There isn’t anything people can say that will bring the emotion of the game out of the emotion of everyone involved with a team.

look who's in front

Out of parents, coaches, friends, family, and outright fans, fair weather or not, and who do I feel the most for? The seniors. They bring leadership to the team we love so much to work for, watch, and continue to follow. We also feel for the athletes themselves who want to continue to succeed with their own goals on the court; beating an average, breaking your own record, maintaining a starting position.

With the latest sanctions and firing of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, however, we have to be able to look towards the future, and try and prevent what has happened in the past, fixing the problems along the way. Emotions are involved here too, branching out to the families of the coaches affected, not to mention, the athletes future, and the student-fan base of the university involved. The NCAA has proved it doesn’t mess around if you break the rules. No one gets off scott-free. Looking closely, someone has to accept the blame, and unfortunately, a human price has to be paid.

But what would it have taken for him to keep his job, if anything?  What if Tennessee had come out and played like they did against Pitt in December and made a Final Four run, would he still have been fired? It sparks an interesting debate.

No doubt will my friend Bruce be coaching somewhere in the next couple of years and trump us all in the NCAA tournaments to come. I will be the first to say I will closely follow whatever team has the pleasure of having him as a coach. Same  thing with his assistants.

We sometimes forget that setting the groundwork for winning with any university or professional organization makes people want to be around you, anyway you slice it.

President Clinton supporting Georgetown University. Photo by: Pam Chvotkin

It not only means revenue for games, but helps with the university and organization as well. With college, freshman applications increase a large percentage after a national championship title, look it up, the statistics don’t lie.

People will find themselves flocking to be around someone, or anything, that has a winning record. Whether it is a program that succeeds academically, or athletically, it keeps the competitive edge going.

We want everyone to succeed, on and off the court, field or ice. Fortunately, and unfortunately for fans there were a lot of close game this year so far in the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments, bracket busting fans all around the world. And we’re only half way through. Sometimes it’s more than just about the winning or losing of the game itself, but what happens beyond that and who is involved. When the basketball season is over, you can look to football season but also anxiously awaiting another 6 months til the madness resumes again. No doubt to fans think of questionable calls at the end of games, what if that basket had gone in? What if that kick went an inch or two more to the left? What if I had decided to follow a different team back in 1994? Do we remember a losing team? Sure we do. We don’t forget the agony of defeat..

Look at the Fab 5 and what they did for Michigan and the game of college basketball. Just because they didn’t win a championship, doesn’t make them “losers” necessarily.

The only thing we can do as fans, employees, and as people emotionally invested in the game itself, no matter what the sport, is hope for the best, and maintain our support in any way possible. And hey, throw in a little face paint every once in a while. Its good for the soul.

For even more reading, check out Ed The Sports Fan’s (@edthesportsfan) blog on reflections of watching 96 Hours of Basketball.

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