An Imperfect Season

Rob Carr

Georgetown Falls to 15th-Seeded Florida Gulf Coast, 78-68

I have little to write specifically about tonight's loss, and have little idea at this early point how much I will write. There are few words, or at least few that I can divine, that adequately express the range of emotions that passed through each of us this evening.

Let's get the ugly stuff out of the way, first. For the sixth consecutive season, Georgetown underperformed in the post-season. This particular iteration was as bad or worse than versions gone by, as Florida Gulf Coast simply ran the Hoyas out of the gym in a way that the ten-point final margin doesn't capture. There were lowlights throughout, ones those of us who choose to turn on the television over the coming days will not be able to avoid.

Around half of those six disappointments can be categorized as severe, this one included. I have been one of the more steadfast if not vocal defenders of the JTIII era, and in all probability will remain so. This is not the time for recriminations, against him or anyone else, which is different than saying that everyone is blameless. Our head coach is a good man, a good in-season coach, and a good molder of men. And yet, the tournament pattern is increasingly difficult to dispute. We can parse the various opponents, game plans, and statistical anomalies that have brought us to this point, or we simply can accept that March disappointments are, disturbingly but increasingly, the norm. Several of these disappointments can be traced in some measure to coaching decisions (or non-decisions) gone awry.

Having accepted that (or not), we are left with an additional choice. What, exactly, do we make of the season that just ended? What do we think about a team that, for the second consecutive season, replaced three departed upperclassmen, who represented the bulk of its scoring and rebounding? What do we think about the fact that this team, mid-season, was forced to replace one of its stars, who was its second-leading scorer and most disruptive defender? What do we think about the fact that this team, like its predecessor, nevertheless finished the regular season with a better record than the year before? What do we think about the 11-game winning streak? About the two decisive wins over Syracuse? About the Big East Player of the Year, who put forth one of the truly remarkable individual performances in Georgetown history? About finishing atop the standings in the last year of this version of the Big East? And, given all of that, what about the consecutive losses to end the season? In a college basketball world that increasingly revolves around March Madness, does success earlier in the season matter?

That, for all of us, is the difficult pill to swallow, the circle that must be squared. This was the season of Otto and the Miracles. This was the year when offensive struggles were overcome, when a team coalesced around a single goal, when every Hoya came together in pursuit of a championship. This was the year in which a team that routinely languished below the 50-point barrier gradually, unrelentingly clawed its way to the top of the conference, riding the brilliance of one star and the selfless determination, both of that star and everyone else on the roster. And yet, this, like the several years that preceded it, was the year in which the Hoyas fell short.

There's a movie, older now than I'd like to admit, called "Finding Forrester." Like this blog, its comment section, the lunch documentation, and, shit, Georgetown basketball, that movie is about basketball, but also about a lot of other things, some fun, some less so. I enjoy it far too much and have seen it far too many times to have even a remote idea of whether it's any good. Still, I came across this near-classic recently in seeking an alternative to the unwatchable Tuesday evening Big East Tournament games. I could spend thousands of words teasing out the parallels between that movie and the privilege of writing about Georgetown basketball. (Sometimes, unmotivated after a lackluster midweek game, I just think that William Forrester is standing over my shoulder screaming, "Punch the keys, Goddamnit! Yes...YES!!")

But mostly, I think about "A Season of Faith's Perfection." Those words, possibly perfect in their own right, play an important role in the movie, a bind between the two principals. For a while this year, in the particularly heady days of the Hoyas' rather long win streak, I was arrogant enough to allow myself to think that those words might soon summarize some season-ending glory for Georgetown. I thought that this would be the year in which we were rewarded, in which middling or disappointing mid-season performances, and worse March results, would be redeemed. This was the team, least probable of all, that would succeed where previous, more talented iterations had come up short.

Friday night, that all proved to be fallacy. Once again, Georgetown found itself staring up at a double-digit second-half deficit to a double-digit seed. Once again, the Hoyas looked flat-footed, and their coach was out-maneuvered. Judgment was delivered both swiftly and mercilessly, and before we knew it the game was out of hand. For a while, we reacted harshly. We cursed at the calls that didn't go Georgetown's way, bemoaned the unlucky bounces, muttered about questionable shots or indefensible strategic decisions.

But soon it all became too much to bear. Finding specific fault, whether in the coach, his players, or the system, seemed petty and beside the point, at least for now. Seeing the Hoyas in whom we so recently had taken so much pride hiding their faces in a towel, or in their jerseys, reminded us that whatever the measure of our anger, embarrassment, or disappointment, it was far less than the same emotions felt by those Hoyas who spend all year tirelessly working toward this end. Gnashing our teeth at the result of one game in March only diminishes their truly outstanding achievements that preceded it.

Our faith is imperfect, and so are those in whom we place in. We will never endure losses like these with equanimity, nor should we. If we suffered defeat placidly, we wouldn't be fans. Likewise, the Georgetown Hoyas, no matter who they then are, will forever be imperfect, a tantalizing combination of talent, potential, and fallibility. Sometimes, this blend produces unique thrills: an unexpected winning streak, the unforeseen resurgence, a glimpse of true greatness. On other days, those same ingredients produce disappointment. If it were otherwise--if either we or the objects of our fanaticism were more certain--our Hoyas would not be worth watching, nor would we find ourselves drawn to them, continuing to hope for that one season in which those faults are overcome.

Like every season for the past twenty-nine, this one ended too soon. That's different than saying the season was a disappointment, or, worse yet, not worth watching. Those final judgments will have to be rendered by a more dispassionate eye than I currently can provide.

I can say that of the past four years in which I have written about the Hoyas, I have enjoyed none so much as this. I will miss nearly everything about this season, whether it's the steadfast resolve of the Georgetown defense, the sometimes transcendent performances of Otto Porter, the selfless contributions of every Hoya, their collective and infectious spirit, the constant frailty and transience of all of it, or the cynicism and delusion of all of you. It has been, as it was nearly assured to be, imperfect. And yet never has it seemed closer to that elusive goal. Hoya Saxa.

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