Basketball, Columnists, Sports

MAZUREK: A personalized Thanksgiving postcard from Kingston

My Thanksgiving plans were written in stone: go home for Thanksgiving, spend time with my family and high school friends and then meet up with other Boston University students Saturday night at Madison Square Garden for Red Hot Hockey, before coming back to Boston.

Great plan, right? It probably resembles the holiday plans of many other BU students.

My first Red Hot Hockey experience was back in 2009, when BU scored a goal in the last minute of play to force a 3-3 tie. The sea of red comprising students and alumni from both schools in the world’s most famous arena! How can you beat that? As a senior how could I miss that?

Then on Aug. 25, BU athletics announced that the men’s basketball team was chosen to take part in the TicketCity Legends Classic, which consisted of a game at the University of Texas, followed by three games in three days at host University of Rhode Island over Thanksgiving break.

I was at the crossroads of a difficult BU athletics decision. It is never fun to support one BU team over another; however, every year there are times when games coincide. Obviously, Red Hot Hockey is a must-see event. But does it outweigh three straight days of BU basketball, which included a total of six college basketball games?

For the majority of students at BU, this decision probably would not be very difficult. BU has been and forever will be a hockey-first school. As a result, most BU fans would likely side with hockey over any other sport.

After a few days of considering the travel costs, tickets and other logistics, I decided to take the road less traveled to Kingston, R.I. to see the Terriers face Cleveland State University, URI and Hofstra University.

Geared up with my newly purchased red zubaz (zebra-patterned pants), my Tunji Awojobi BU jersey and, of course, my red fedora, I made my way to Kingston in hopes of seeing BU coach Joe Jones’ first win ever as a Terrier.

As is the case for any sports fan, supporting your team can be a roller coaster ride, and my three nerve-wracking days in Kingston were no exception. I experienced everything from the heartbreak of giving up what seemed to be a sure victory, to being overcome with sheer joy after wins against URI and Hofstra.

Attendance in general was poor during the three-day tournament, with the host URI easily having the most fans. However, I could not help but feel that BU was well represented.
While students are known to be the loudest fans at collegiate events, at the TicketCity Legends Classic I would have to give the edge to the BU parents.

The family of sophomore point guard DJ Irving, a Chester, Pa. native, had more family and friends present than all the Hofstra fans combined.

Former BU coach Patrick Chambers always described BU basketball as a family, something Jones has built off of.

I always knew this to be true, but never was this family mentality more visible than during the past three games.

After any devastating defeat, as was the case in the 63-62 loss to Cleveland State, a team can do one of two things. The first is for the players to feel sorry for themselves, which can negatively affect their next performance. The second is to move on and fight harder next time.

Do not be deceived by BU’s 2-4 record – this team is resilient. That fact was clearly on display the last two days in Kingston.

The resiliency seen in the men’s basketball team is partially the result of the team’s family mentality. The players view each other more as brothers than teammates with a bond fostered by respect, care and trust for each other. These values spread to the bench with the coaches, managers and even into the stands with the parents and, to my surprise, fans.

While witnessing two big wins against URI (70-64) and Hofstra (68-61), the most memorable part was being adopted into the BU basketball family by the players and their families.

I always thought the barrier between the parent of a student-athlete and a student-fan was unbreakable unless you were good friends with the player. However, such a barrier does not exist in the BU basketball family. Whether a family member or a student-fan, the interests are the same: support the BU men’s basketball program whether it wins or loses.

I knew I made the right decision when I realized that a fan, albeit a die-hard fan, could be accepted as part of the BU basketball family.

This is what makes BU basketball so special.

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