Win over Rhode Island Brings Bona Fans Together
By Mike Vaccaro
This was the reason I had driven two hours through Friday-night Shore traffic, endured bumper-to-bumper on the Garden State Parkway/Parking Lot: because this wasn’t a game I could watch alone. This wasn’t wasn’t a game I could watch with only the companionship of my wife, a good enough sport, who either would’ve been sound asleep by now or watching a BBC program on her IPad while pretending to pay attention (though never pretending to care; she is not a phony. And she is not a Bonnie. She went to LSU. Her freshman English survey classes were the size of the combined St. Bonaventure classes of 1987-91).
This was why I was here, in the company of Stubbs and Paglia, Class of ’87 and Class of ’92 with me right in the middle, Class of ’89, all of us suffering and dying inside, all of us paralyzed by our strange game-day quirks (Stubbs bedecked in Bona gear from his SBU ski cap right down to his Barry Mungar booties; myself, I’d gone beer-less to this point because I’d been guzzling water all night and that had worked and who wants to mess with a good thing?), all of us spending two full hours shouting at the TV, exchanging fist bumps and high fives, cursing like longshoremen at the TV (“CAN ANYONE ON THIS @#$#%$# TEAM MAKE A @#$#%$# LAYUP!?!?!?!?”), Paglia insisting that whoever threw the bottle on the court drawing a “T” should be immediately expelled, Stubbs insisting that wasn’t good enough, suggesting they should instead be executed at Dawn in the Dev Quad. We couldn’t be at Reilly Center but, damn it, we would turn Stubbs’ Shore House into a satellite gym, making it rattle and hum, just like …
… well, just like wherever you were watching it, whether you were able to squeeze into the RC or watch the game on ESPN, or follow it on your computer, or through the helpful text messages bombarding your phone. You had to share this one, right? You had to be a part of this remarkable thing happening in real time.
So now there were 4.2 seconds left, and the Bonnies were leading Rhode Island 77-74, and Matt Mobley, who’d been a sensation all night, was missing a free throw and if you looked closely then (or any of the 74 times you’ve seen the replay) you can see Mobley instinctively put both hands on his head (and you could practically see the thought bubble over his head: “OH NO?!?!?!?”), and you saw Jared Terrell push the ball upcourt – Terrell, chatty Ram, who’d engaged the RC crowd all night, especially during his super-human first half – and in that mad rush of gibberish that tumbles from your lips whenever you’re trapped in a moment like this … well, for me I believe the exact quote over those final 4.2 seconds:
“OH @#$#%$# HE @#$#%$# MISSED! SOMEBODY FOUL HIM DON’T LET THIS BE LIKE TAYSHAUN @#$#%$# PRINCE FOUL HIM FOUL HIM OH MY GOD DON’T @#$#%$# FOUL HIM WHILE HE’S SHOOTING HOLY @#$#%$# THAT’S GOING IN HOLY @#$#%$# HE MISSED HOLY @#$#%$# WE @#$#%$# WIN!!!!!!!!”
And of course I wanted to share this moment with my good friend Stubbs and my good pal Paglia except in that blissful moment of triumph, as on television the Reilly Center students flooded the floor and the players jumped up and down uncontrollably and all I wanted was to share the moment, suddenly I was like Jimmy Vee in ’83, looking for someone to hug, with nobody to hug.
Stubbs was in a distant room, not watching. He does this. At the end of the Syracuse game in December – a game he’d driven to and from, in harrowing conditions, on the night of the game – he wasn’t in his seat, he was wandering the Carrier Dome, looking for a proper karmic spot. Same deal now.
Paglia? He was in the bathroom. He’d snuck in there during an especially fortunate moment – was it the Courtney Stockard steal-and-dunk that turned the game around? The Ladarien Griffin sequence where he blocked the shot with one shoe? I hadn’t noticed at the time – and decided the bathroom was where the best luck could be found. And so in those glorious seconds after Terrell’s shot missed the mark, and the mighty Rams had been vanquished, and I searched for someone to hug (thankfully Liz, Stubbs’ very, very, VERY patient wife, was available for one) you could hear two booming questions in the Stubbs Shore house.
From the bathroom: “WE WON?!?!?!?”
From the distant room: “WE @#$#%$# WON?!?!?”
And, of course, the best part of this was: in the moment, ALL of it made perfect sense, seemed perfectly logical, seemed almost normal. That, of course, is the essence of caring about this team – and this school, by extension. The personal investment goes far beyond any loyalties to the Yankees or the Bills or the Red Sox. Even the most rabid football fan probably feels a little silly when he refers to his team as “we” or “us.” As Sonny tells C in “A Bronx Tale”: “Mickey Mantle don’t care about you. Why should you care about him?”
It’s different with this, though. It just is. In that wonderful moment when the students stormed the court (waiting for the final buzzer this time, thankfully), the players gleefully joined them. You could see all of them: Mobley and Griffin, the heroes, and Jaylen Adams, the star who couldn’t buy a shot all night yet still engineered the biggest plays down the stretch, even the subs who saw limited time, if any at all: they were celebrating themselves, yes, but they wanted to be a part of the joy with their classmates, too. Everyone with a part. Everyone with a place.
And you understood, right?
Because while we can wring our hands about how gadgets and constant access to social media have changed our world to the extreme – and not always for the better – this was an example of allowing all of us to be a part of something wonderful, together. How many of us had a set of eyes and ears inside the RC, feeding us all the color and pageantry as it happened (my correspondent, alas, fired off his last text just before 9 o’clock: “Oh, well. Good game for 32 minutes. @#$#%$# Matthews: he was carried to the locker room Tuesday!” I assume his thumbs were trembling too much to properly capture the last few minutes)?
How many of us were engaged in texting threads, Bona friends from all over the map converging on our phone? I had four different groups working. At every TV time-out I’d tap my phone; one time I had 73 unread messages.
From one thread:
“Man, closest game to this was when we were there was probably the OT loss to UMass.”
“Lucky you. I had @#$#%$# jack for four years – 35-77!”
“Respect them, but man the Hurleys are irritating!”
“@#$#%$# him, his brother, and his old man!”
“ONE @#$#%$# STOP!”
“If there’s a God we win this game. I will become an atheist if we lose!”
And this one, in which I’ll actually identify the other party, with good reason:
Steve Watson: “I always think of you guys when this happens. Unbelievable! Bonnies are rollin’!”
Me: “I guess Schmidt was a good hire!”
And social media? Well …
A couple years ago, I got in the habit of dropping an #UnfurlIt! whenever they (or we!) won a big game. This year, I’ve simply posted pictures on Twitter and Facebook or either an unfurled pennant or the Bona Wolf waving the flag. About 15 minutes after the game was over, after first making sure Stubbs wouldn’t need medical attention, I checked Facebook: there were already close to 100 likes, close to 20 shares. Are you kidding? These are the times when it feels like a lie, all these facts and figures about our small enrollment and our tiny alumni base, because it honestly feels like you know every singe one by their first name.
There will come a time, sometime, when it will be good to remember that, and to remember this night, what it meant for all of us, what it meant to watch this game, and where you watched it, and with whom you watched it …
(And, yes, this is the part where your friends and family who aren’t Bona folks roll their eyes and hold up their hands and beg you to stop, stop, please, for the love of God, STOP, where your wife the LSU grad likes to joke about your “adorable little school” and your friend the Carolina grad smiles and says something about how cute it would be if you actually got a chance to play in the First Four, how Carolina would sooner turn down a bid than have to trek to Dayton to play. We get it. We do. We can wear you out with this stuff. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. Sue us.)
There’ll be time aplenty to come down from this, for the buzz to wear off, for the reality that there’s still an awful lot of season left to settle in. Duquesne is up next, and anyone with even a passing sense of Bona history realizes that the Dukes have done a wonderful job spilling vinegar in the punch bowl whenever we get a little too full of ourselves (I’m STILL bitter about them winning the game the day of the celebration of the program’s 75th anniversary, and that was TWENTY-THREE YEARS AGO). There’s still road games at VCU and St. Louis, and a home game against Davidson that will take place without students in the house, and then there’s the A-10 Tournament and all the sickening memories that THAT dredges up …
Time enough for that.
Cue those last few minutes up again. Watch Griffin playing the game of his life, draining those two enormous foul shots, throw down that clinching dunk. Watch the final 4.2 seconds all over again; no matter how many times you think Terrell’s final heave is going in, it never goes in. Watch Danny Hurley – all class behind that relentless 40-minute kvetching he does – smile and embrace Griffin and Mobley at the end, admiring in defeat the grittiness of victory.
Relish this. Savor this. Text a friend and share it all, all over again. Still a lot of season to go. But, @#$#%$#, what a season it’s already been.
Photo of LaDarrien Griffin taken from the Olean Times Herald story which can be found here. Photo taken by Derek Gumtow of Gumtow Photography.