Saturday, March 3, 2012

Before Linsanity

Yesterday afternoon, after a $500 cash exchange at the only Chick-Fil-A in the greater Boston area (I know, I don’t know what I’m still doing up here either), three friends and I secured tickets to the Knicks/Celtics match up.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock under another rock with rocks in your ears (and you haven't read this, this, this, or this), you know the story of Jeremy Lin inside and out. One aspect of his story that has been highlighted is the fact that he came from Harvard, also somewhat hilariously known by the media as “Out of Nowhere.”

As someone who lives within walking distance of Out of Nowhere, it’s been fun to follow the story with folks in the area, some of whom have “I met Jeremy Lin at XYZ” and “I know someone who knows someone who is BEST FRIENDS with Jeremy Lin” anecdotes. Before I watch him on Sunday, I thought I’d shared my own tiny connection with him BL (Before Linsanity).

In February 2010, shortly after I moved from Texas to Boston, a couple of new friends who knew that I missed watching sports live invited me to a basketball game.

“Sure!” I said without hesitation.

They then informed me it was Harvard versus Cornell, and their major selling point was that there was this pretty good Asian guy who played for Harvard. Which had me about as excited as if they had said, “Hey, I know about this sweet academic decathlon going on this weekend. And the star mathlete is freaking SICK!”

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a superiority complex about a lot of things, especially in a city full of some of the most brilliant and talented people in the country. But going to a school that churned out Vince Young, Colt McCoy, and Kevin Durant in the four years I attended definitely made me a college sports snob. Still, I was desperate to feel the excited atmosphere that game day provided so I decided to give it a go. (The same rationale took me to a MIT football game this past fall. More on that another time...)

We drove to Levien Gym, an arena that holds about 2,200 people, on a Friday night. Both teams owned remarkable records up to that point, and the results of this meeting had March Madness implications. Although Cornell was the favorite coming in, the raucous home crowd was more than willing to do its part to keep their team in the game.

However, despite Lin having a solid game with 20+ points, Crimson was down double digits for much of the night. Midway through the second half, Harvard mounted a furious comeback and pulled within 5 with about 8 minutes left, but Cornell answered back and eventually cruised to a 79-70 victory.

This led to my favorite memory of the eveningtruly the only thing that sticks out in my mind. When it became obvious that Cornell was going to get the W, their fans became rowdy and started to shout things like “you suck!” and “ugly cheerleaders!” You know, the kind of classy and original phrases 19-year-old co-eds tend to yell at sporting events.

No way were Harvard fans going to take their smugness lying down. Not in their house. As if some secret code agreed upon beforehand was suddenly activated, the Crimson crowd locked, loaded and shot back the one thing they knew would really hurt Cornell. They didn't settle for cliche "yo mama" jokes or even crude vulgarities. No, Harvard knew their fellow Ivy's weakness and they went for the jugular.

“Saaafety Schoooool! Saaaafety Schoooool!”

I don’t know if I’ll ever go to another game where a whole cheering section leverages their SAT scores, family connections, and well-rounded extracurricular activities against their opponents, but the absolute silence that followed those 2 words was an unforgettable “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Texas anymore” moment for this state school graduate.


Go Ivy League Basketball!!

Even the trash talking is over my head.

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