Looking Back: Proud to Be a Georgetown Fan

By John Nagle Hoya Staff Writer

I have experienced four years of Georgetown sports. Well, maybe more like three, although I was here for tailgating at homecoming junior year and I at least walked through the football field on my way from the parking lot to an afternoon of Beiruit.

Regardless, I have seen a few things in my days here, and this being my last piece of sports writing for The Hoya, I feel like I should share some of my favorite aspects of sporting life at Georgetown and offer some thoughts about the future.

Coming to the Hilltop, I knew one thing about athletics here, and that was men’s basketball. As I have recounted several times on these pages, I grew up with the Hoyas of John Thompson and loved them as much as any team I have ever known. Thus, I was excited for the opportunity to see them as a student, with thousands of my equally enthusiastic classmates cheering them on deep into the NCAA tournament every year.

Of course we all know things did not turn out exactly as I had hoped. My freshman year was a big letdown from the previous, Allen Iverson-led, team, barely squeaking into the tournament and losing in the first round. Little did I know, that was the best team I would see here.

The crowds were also less than encouraging, but who could blame people for not wanting to trek an hour away for a “home” game in a faceless arena in Landover, Md., to see mediocre basketball? The downtown D.C. MCI Center was an improvement, but the team was not any better, and the student apathy was noticeable at most games.

Still, there are moments I will remember and cherish. The raw energy and talent of sophomore Victor Page taking the team on his back night in and night out made things interesting, if not always attractive. His play even inspired Chris Bletsch (SFS ’00) and I to make a sign in his honor in a successful bid to get our faces on ESPN. Oh, to be a freshman again. Boubacar Aw was the man my sophomore year, playing with intensity that bordered on rage. He was not a traditional Georgetown big man at 6-foot-8, but he was all intimidation and muscle mass, capable of guarding any man in the Big East and prone to reckless bull- charges to the hoop. If the players on the team today played as tough as he did, we would have had some more tournament games to watch.

My junior year will be remembered as the year John Thompson retired. I was not really here for it, but I was pretty shaken up by the news. Just seeing the big man around campus was always a thrill for me. You might not agree with everything he did, and I am not sure why he left precisely when he did, but it is undeniable that he has done as much to make this a great university of national renown as any man this century.

This past year I will remember for the individual games. Rushing the court after the Louisville game. The appearance of the Scruggs Thugz at the Villanova game. Seeing us beat Syracuse in the Big East from a beachside bar-hut in Negril. Three overtimes of the heart and guts of Kevin Braswell at UVa., still the most fun I have ever had watching a sporting event, even after I have been allowed to let my hyperbolic myopia subside.

Yet, if you had told me coming into Georgetown that four years would only give me one NCAA tournament game, I would probably be devastated about sports here. I am not. Somewhere along the line something changed for me, and I discovered there is more to a healthy athletic scene than a nationally ranked basketball team.

It started when The Hoya gave me the football beat during freshman year. Great, I get to cover some lousy no-scholarship team playing against second-rate schools on a slab of concrete. Rah rah. Then I met Head Coach Bob Benson. I knew he did not think of his team that way, and I knew his team did not deserve to be covered that way. Every year he has been here, the team has improved, winning the MAAC title, beating Patriot League opponents and going to a postseason bowl game. Now they are ready to jump into the Patriot League itself, and that is remarkable given where the program started. I am proud to have been here for that development.

In addition to gaining respect for the team and its many fine individual players, I also discovered how much fun those games could be once I got out of the press box this year. Just because we are not Notre Dame does not mean we can’t tailgate and cheer, and a few dedicated souls proved it this year. Now everyone needs to get out there and keep it going.

Other teams have been impressive as well. Men’s lacrosse has become a new favorite of mine as the most successful team playing on campus. I used to subscribe to the big fish-small pond theory with them, but recently I have come to appreciate their athleticism and particular skill. I guess going to a few games helps you figure those things out.

If I have not attended enough games of most other teams on campus to give you my impression, and I have not, maybe it is because I have been too busy playing my own games, and here I do not mean quarters and flip-cups exclusively.

I thought my sorry athletic career was over after high school, outside of maybe some pick-up basketball. Little did I realize the opportunities I would have in both club sports and intramurals.

My first experiences as an athlete at Georgetown came with rugby my freshman year. I had never even thought of playing rugby before coming here, but some guys on my floor were doing it, and the parties were fun, so I figured I would give it a shot. I ended up playing for parts of two years and I was never very good, but it was always fun.

The opportunity to compete and put on a uniform is something I will always want, even if it is just slow-pitch softball. Seeing my teammates win the Capital Cup as the best college rugby team in D.C. my sophomore year was a proud and emotional moment for me, even though I did not play in that game. Now if they could just get some support from the University, along with the other club sports, maybe even more people could get that sort of feeling.

Still, after a year of inactivity in Ireland and some changes in the makeup of the rugby club, I decided not to return to the pitch but to focus my attention on more traditionally American games: intramural flag football, wiffleball, basketball and softball. Winning an intramural champions’ shirt was probably my only real goal coming into the year, and now that I have one for flag football, I want a few more. If only intramural czar Rick Hall could have gotten me floor hockey I would have been guaranteed a shirt. Now I still have to duke it out over the final rounds of spring basketball and softball, neglecting classes, missing trips to Foxfields and whatever else it takes to complete my quest.

So where is all of this going? Where is Georgetown athletics going?

Right now the school finds itself at a crucial place in its development, and the athletic department is right in the heart of the changes that are taking place. There is an opportunity to do things the right way, and that opportunity must be seized.

First, a new multi-sport stadium on Harbin Field is a must. Kehoe Field is inadequate for Patriot League play and too remote to draw the crowds the team deserves. Building a 5,000 to 6,000 seat stadium with locker rooms and administrative space is ideal.

That new stadium should not, however, push the baseball field off campus. I have heard a plan where the stadium would back up to the right field fence of the baseball field, and that seems ideal. Any other plan involving moving baseball off campus would eventually kill the program. Out of sight, out of mind, and that is not right.

Finally, McDonough Gymnasium must be renovated and made into a viable home court for some men’s basketball games. Sink the floor, rotate it 90 degrees, knock out the offices and make it seat 6,000, then play most of the home games before a real home crowd, only moving to MCI for the big games that demand extra seating. If the administration does its job and goes ahead with those plans, the students need to respond in kind. Bring the same enthusiasm you bring to intramurals and club sports to support our varsity teams. I know there are people out there who care, and if they bring the kind of spirit they can on a consistent basis, it will be contagious and fun for everyone.

Thanks for listening.

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