The Closer, The Better
Andy Backstrom | Asst. Sports Editor
Bryant Crawford didn’t even see him coming. Ky Bowman crept across the paint, leapt in the air and swatted the Demon Deacon guard’s shot out of bounds. For Bowman—Boston College men’s basketball’s most valuable player—it was yet another electrifying play. That is, until he hit the hardwood. The All-ACC Freshman landed awkwardly, damaging cartilage in his right knee.
Bowman lay face down on the court, pounding his fist against the ground in frustration. Immediately, Jordan Chatman, Jerome Robinson, Connar Tava, and A.J. Turner came to his side. But they weren’t the only ones worrying.
You could hear a pin drop in the Barclays Center.
While team doctors worked with the stationary Bowman, ESPN’s broadcast showcased two Eagles fans. Both locked their respective hands together at eye level as they watched the red-headed phenom struggle to fully extend his leg. Whether they were praying or not, they most certainly were concerned.
In the moment, the injury was the worst thing that could have happened to BC. Without Bowman, the Eagles had no chance in the ACC Tournament, let alone versus Wake Forest. Yet, as horrible as it was, it can be seen as a sign of progress.
One year removed from infamy, head coach Jim Christian fielded a team that, despite only winning two conference games, played North Carolina, Duke, and Notre Dame down to the wire. Fans took notice and genuinely invested in the team.
Remember, this is a group that sported full-on Bowman wigs when the Eagles hosted then-No. 9 North Carolina on Jan. 21. To wear a ridiculous Ronald McDonald-esque head dress like that, you have to be passionate about the team you’re rooting for.
So when Bowman went down, fans were not only anxious about his leg, but also about the future of the team—something that before this season remained a complete mystery, and quite frankly was irrelevant to many.
During the 2015-16 season, the program was in complete disarray. While the team may have only lost twice more than it did this year, it dropped conference games by an average of 17 points—6.3 more than the 2016-17 Eagles’ margin of defeat. With the exception of BC’s three-point loss to UNC and a couple of games down the stretch, every ACC game on the schedule ended in a blowout.
There was no incentive for fans to drag themselves to Conte Forum. Every game was guaranteed to pad the loss column. And with two Frozen Four-bound hockey teams, there was no need to subject themselves to a team that was cemented at the cellar of its conference.
Not to mention that BC’s leading scorer was a fifth-year transfer. Eli Carter logged 16 points per game, and was best known for his game-high 26 points against the Tar Heels. Sure, Carter was entertaining, but the bottomline was that he wasn’t there to stay.
Since BC is in the ACC, there is always the expectation that it will play the highest level of competition. And for the most part, that remains true. But when Christian’s injury-ridden crew was losing games by 20 left and right, the conference’s best didn’t put on the show fans might have been looking forward to.
The same was true for this year’s football team. For instance, take the Louisville game. Lamar Jackson accounted for seven total touchdowns, but only played three quarters. When he did score, it wasn’t flashy or suspenseful—it usually consisted of the future Heisman Trophy winner finding open space in the Eagles defense, either on the ground or in the air, for an easy score. And as soon as he was pulled, fans piled out of Alumni Stadium.
It makes sense. Star players shine when their team needs them the most. Yeah, the Brandon Ingrams of the conference may have put up numbers against the Eagles, but that doesn’t come close to the thrill of seeing Justin Jackson drill one after another from beyond the arc to finish a tightly contested game.
On the other hand, Christian’s team brought out the best of its opponents. And whether you’re a diehard Superfan or just a casual attendee, that’s all you can ask for.
BC blew five halftime leads this season—three of which came in the final seven games. As frustrating as that is, it provides promise. For the pace Christian has BC playing—the 42nd fastest offense in the country—players are going to get tired. Right now, the Eagles simply don’t have the depth to back up that game plan.
But every time underclassmen Bowman, Robinson, or Chatman went for 20-plus points, there was a sense of hope tied to their performance. Even if BC ended up falling, it got fans thinking, “Well, if only we had one more piece.” I like to believe that recruits around the country were thinking along the same lines.
All but three Eagles will return for next season. A team built on youth and potential, BC’s 16 ACC losses this year showed that it is nearing a turnaround. Now, Christian has to use that to his advantage. Just like he did with Bowman and Robinson, the third-year head coach must coax recruits to embrace the underdog role. He has more evidence now than ever to pitch to prospective players that they, individually, could be the program’s missing piece.
The fact that the Eagles were hanging with the nation’s top teams warrants respect. Last season, they were the laughing stock of college basketball. But with arguably the most explosive backcourt in the ACC, BC has transformed into a legitimate threat. It may not be consistent, but a threat it is.
Christian came into the season with two point guards leading the offense: Ty Graves and Bowman. Graves was a perimeter shooter, and Bowman looked like someone who should have stuck to football, turning the ball over 10 times in the first 61 minutes of his career.
But as soon as Bowman dyed his hair red, his play jumped to another level. Graves transferred and Bowman teamed up with Robinson to establish a lethal one-two punch.
Through 23 losses—six of which were decided by six points or less—Christian’s group found its identity. That’s a whole lot better than headlining SportsCenter as the first team to go winless in the ACC since the 1986-87 season.
Painless Defeats Are Best
Tom DeVoto | Heights Senior Staff
One of my favorite sports memories came in 2008, when I watched former Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas sing his favorite song—Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes”—minutes after the Phils clinched the World Series.
It remains the only title I’ve seen one of my favorite teams win, and Kalas’ voice was the soundtrack to the summers of my youth, so it meant a lot to me.
I’ll be honest, though—I’ve never liked the lyrics to “High Hopes.”
If you’re unfamiliar, the song is about various animals that try to do something basically impossible, but they keep trying, because they have—you guessed it—high hopes. An ant, for example, tries to move a rubber tree plant. Can’t tell you what a rubber tree plant is, but it sounds heavy and that ant probably shouldn’t be moving it.
I hate getting my hopes up, because after 21-plus years of this thing called life, I know what happens when I get my hopes up.
High hopes result in nothing but disappointment. Expectations yield heartbreak. I hate heartbreak. The solution? Don’t expect anything, and don’t get your hopes up.
Is it easier to have loved and lost, or never to have loved at all?
Uh, easy—the latter.
If you expect nothing, and you get nothing, then everything is fine. If you expect something and you get something, then that’s great, but that is quite rare.
If you expect something and get nothing, as I have been known to do, there is emotional hell to pay. And all too often, sports teams rope me in and make me expect something great, only to have the exact opposite happen.
Feb. 6, 2005. The Philadelphia Eagles made their first Super Bowl appearance in over two decades against the New England Patriots. It was a back-and-forth, seesaw battle, and the Eagles had chances to win, but mismanaged the clock at the end of the game and lost by three points.
Jan. 2, 2012. The Philadelphia Flyers took on the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic. The Flyers took a two-goal lead in the second period, but gave up three consecutive Ranger goals to find themselves trailing late. After a penalty was called on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh for covering the puck in the crease with just seconds on the clock, Flyers forward Danny Brière was awarded a penalty shot. The stadium was raucous, but he missed. The Flyers lost what was way more than just a regular season game.
April 10, 2014. In his final game in a BC uniform, Johnny Gaudreau and BC men’s hockey get outdueled by Union College in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals. The Eagles close a late two-goal gap to just one on two separate occasions in the last two minutes, but it’s not enough to overcome a stronger game from the Dutchmen.
Nov. 22, 2014. BC football hit the road to take on No. 3 Florida State. The teams were tied late in the fourth quarter in what has remained BC’s best chance to upend a top-five team under head coach Steve Addazio. BC had the ball deep in FSU’s territory with less than five minutes on the clock, but an incomplete pass on a trick play where the ball bounced off the hands of quarterback Tyler Murphy and a missed field goal doomed the Eagles. The Seminoles marched up the field, kicked a game-winning field goal, and sent BC packing.
March 20, 2016. BC women’s hockey had won 40-straight games to start the season and cruised to the National Championship against the University of Minnesota. In what represented BC’s best shot at a title in any sport since men’s hockey won it all in 2012, the Eagles were outmatched against the Gophers and suffered their first defeat of the season.
Many of my most vivid sports memories, regardless of the importance of the game, are heart-wrenching, gut-twisting losses. That certainly says something about the teams I’ve chosen to support, but it also says something about the agony of defeat.
I’d like to win, of course. But if I’m going to lose, I want it to be as painless as possible.
If I could guarantee beforehand that BC men’s basketball would go on a miracle run to the ACC Championship, only to lose on a buzzer beater against Duke, I wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional roller coaster. It’s tough to say out loud, but I’d probably prefer BC’s actual path in this year’s tournament.
A wise woman (or man, depending on the version of the song you prefer) once said, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?” Yes, it always do seem to go like that.
It’s much easier on the soul to be completely ignorant of what joy feels like than to have it for a fleeting moment and get your heart ripped out of your chest.
Don’t get your hopes up, kids. Don’t root for blowouts by any means, but they’re not as bad as you might think.
Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor