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View from the Student Section: “I’ll kick your f*cking ass”

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An impolite confrontation in the crowd plagued Senior Day for Casual’s senior student correspondent.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Well. Let’s just say I’m glad Katie Ledecky didn’t have to see this one. No one should have been subjected to watching Georgetown basketball come apart at the seams, but alas, several thousand people bore witness to the mess. Hostilities brewed, but not between fans of Georgetown and Villanova. Rather, the Georgetown fan base broke down into in-fighting as Villanova just kept scoring. There’s plenty to digest here, and I have a lot of words (the best words, believe me,) so I’ve broken this up into parts.

Part 1: Recapping the mess on the court

The Georgetown Hoyas’ regular season came to a smoldering end Saturday, as Villanova pulled away in the second half to wallop the Hoyas, 81-55. The Hoyas hung with Villanova through the first 30 minutes of the game, but the Wildcats pulled away as scattered chants of “Fire Thompson” and “Let’s Go Nova” rang through the arena. Quite the unfortunate farewell for the three seniors—Reggie Cameron, Bradley Hayes, and Rodney Pryor—honored before tip-off.

Pryor in particular tried willing the Hoyas to victory out of the gate, scoring 13 of Georgetown’s first 17 points. Unfortunately, no amount of offensive output could keep up with Georgetown’s fouling and turnover pace. Georgetown racked up 22 fouls and 20 turnovers as Villanova capitalized. The Wildcats’ balanced attack slowly tore the Hoyas limb from limb, as local hero Josh Hart dropped a team-high 21 points for Nova, which included back-to-back three pointers in the second half that triggered the Wildcats’ late runaway.

There were few bright spots for the Hoyas today, as Pryor, who scored 21 on the day, was the only Hoya who topped seven points. LJ Peak, in what could be his final home game if he chooses to move on from the program, scored just two points and fouled out in just 12 minutes of action on the court. Bradley Hayes, in his home finale, remained scoreless. At the very least, Reggie Cameron scored in his final home game, including one clutch three-pointer at the end of the first half.

There’s not much more to analyze about this game on the court that the other recaps here have not covered. So let’s move off the court.

Part 2: Sh*tshow in the Crowd

Things started off normal in the lead-up to tip-off. Fans prepared their signs as usual. Many signs thanked seniors, but some made gentle fun of Villanova.

Senior Day ceremonies went off without a hitch. The public address announcer mentioned the name of coach John Thompson III, but the crowd had no reaction to it. They cheered loudly and respectfully for Cameron, Hayes, and Pryor as they were introduced and the whole affair was sentimental and sweet, as it should have been.

As Georgetown remained competitive with Villanova in the first half, the affair featured most of the usual fun. Fans chanted and occasionally heckled (I had a handful of one-liners in my back pocket thanks to last year’s Heckler’s Guide.) One of my roommates, a senior attending his first and last Georgetown home game, tried to trigger Josh Hart’s high school nostalgia, as both not only attended the same high school, but were in the same homeroom. I made fun of the appellation Wildcats coach Jay Wright gave to forward Donte DiVincenzo: “the Michael Jordan of Delaware.” I enjoyed it since that sounds like the worst attempt at a backhanded compliment ever.

Copy That Scene provided some entertaining moments as usual, as fans imitated the heroic entrance of Superman. A trio of fans picked up one of their friends and held him up in the air in an impressive imitation.

At halftime, Hoya Blue left to table in the concourse, but left behind their assessment of Jay Wright’s suit.

Before the chaos started, I even got a picture with some of my good friends, who I finally persuaded to join me at the game. None of them were big basketball fans, but they seemed to enjoy themselves.

In the second half, however, things came undone. Early on, scattered shouts of “Fire Thompson” echoed at random moments, including when Georgetown was pulling close to Villanova. The growing lead didn’t exactly silence fans either. As Villanova stretched its lead to 20, the echoes of “Fire Thompson” grew louder. The chants came up here and there throughout the last ten minutes of the game and arena staff acted on orders to remove signs.

Not wanting to give up hope about this game, I kept my messaging more subtle. I shouted out names of terrific mid-major coaches and/or college/NBA assistants who I believed had been doing a good job. ”Kevin Keatts!” “King Rice!” “Becky Hammon!” (Full disclosure: In case you did not know, I helped start the petition to the university asking them to consider moving on from JT3.) At each timeout, the music came in louder and quicker than ever, as the Athletic Department made its most visible effort yet to stifle crowd response.

After the last official timeout, with the clock ticking down to two minutes and Villanova extending its lead into the twenties, I could resist no longer. I reared back, turned my head to the rafters and shouted. “Fi-re Thomp-son! {clap clap clap clap clap} Fi-re Thomp-son! {clap clap clap clap clap}” The ball had come back into play, so I turned my head down, stopped shouting, and tried to focus on the game.

Standing in front of me, however, was a man who I did not know. He looked older than a student, but was clearly not arena staff. “I’m gonna tell you one time,” he said. “Cut it out.” I took a deep breath, in a degree of shock at being confronted out of the blue. I gathered my words. “I am only trying to voice my opinion.” The as-yet anonymous man acknowledges this. “I get that. But I’ll warn you one more time.” He continues. “If you do it again,” he says with his voice becoming more stern, “I’ll kick your fucking ass.”

Ok, keep in mind, I’m wearing a headband that has the name of this website on it. I have a reporter’s notebook and a pen in my hands. I ask this man, clearly an acolyte of the Thompson family, “And what is your name?” As quickly as I asked, he confidently replied “Tyler Crawford.” He walked away and I was left baffled.

I did what came most naturally. I reached out to the two ushers who stand up front, who have become good friends of mine over the years and alerted them to this. As the game ticked away and other fans chanted “Fire Thompson” louder, Villanova continued to pile on points, and Georgetown randomly played loud music in between free throws, another guard came over with a walkie-talkie. He asked if I wanted to get security involved and seeing no other recourse, I did. In the mean time, friends suggested to me that Coach Thompson II or someone sitting in his group may have pointed out my shouting. I have no way of knowing for sure, however, as Crawford may have come of his own volition. Nevertheless, I admired the way in which fellow student fans immediately came over to me and checked in on what happened.

As the final buzzer sounded and the Georgetown in-game organizers instantly blared samba music... (yeah, this was real)

...a burly police officer came over to me and informed me that I would be escorted out of the building safely. The arena staff handled the situation with class and care and made sure I made it out the door quickly and in one piece. They responded quickly and made sure I did not feel threatened or uncomfortable.

As the final buzzer rang out, Villanova fans cheered in excitement, drowning out the sighs of grief and shouts of anger of Georgetown fans.

Part 3: My Response to the Events

I acknowledge that starting a petition to get the university to remove the head coach and chanting about it is not the most conventional response to a team not doing well. It’s not the most polite one either. But this comes from a place of love. I have run out of patience with this program and I believed I had no other way to make the Athletic Department hear me (because they probably don’t read too much Casual Hoya.) I don’t make any donations, nor can I really afford to. This is my last year as someone who can get student season tickets. This is the only response I and most other students felt we had.

I have been to over 40 Hoyas men’s basketball games in my four years. I followed this team off campus, too. I saw them at Verizon Center, at McDonough, at Madison Square Garden. I stuck with this team through thick and thin. I once ran from an evening class to catch the second half of a game where we already led Brown by more than twenty points. I came to games when I was sick and did substantial damage to my throat to scream my head off cheering for this team. When I went through a stressful emotional period sophomore year, I flung myself into this team and it gave me hope and something to believe in. I have given the Georgetown Hoyas all of the love and admiration that I could in the last four years. This program responded by spitting in my face.

The way this program has handled this situation has been genuinely disgusting. To hide from media availabilities and duck questions about the future of the program is bad enough. Blaring music to drown out boos and confiscating signs from skeptical fans is not great either. But to even have a program culture wherein alumni players feel compelled to threaten violence against one of the team’s most dedicated student fans is disgraceful. The university has not replied to me, nor do I expect them to. Crawford’s remarks made me worried about my own well-being. Georgetown, do you really think that fostering an environment wherein a former player feels emboldened to threaten a student fan is at all acceptable? Does that line up with Jesuit values in any way? This program needs to take a long look in the mirror and think about how it treats its fans.

Part 4: On a lighter note... the Casual Extravaganza!

After the game and the escort out, I met a few commenters from this wonderful site at Penn Social for an impromptu version of the Casual Extravaganza. Over the course of the afternoon, which also featured food from Farmers and Distillers (which was so good that we instinctively began eating and did not document—Sorry, Casual), and beers at City Tap House (I did not partake, so no documentation), I had the pleasure of spending time with users Peggy’s Special (and her husband), BenHoya (and his wife), Hoya Saxual, and Ofregalmeans. The events featured plenty of commiseration about the day’s chaos, a discussion about Big East basketball, and plenty of other conversations about personal developments in the non-Internet lives of these fine commenters.

Although I did not get the chance to meet any new faces and although CasualHoya himself did not make it up for the game, it was a pleasure catching up with blog readers who have also endured this season.

Part 5 (the last, I promise): Thank You

To all of you who have read my stuff and put up with my crap over the years: thank you. Whether you’re a longtime commenter or reader familiar with the nuances of this little blog or someone stumbling upon my strange perspective on Saturday’s game, I want to thank you for reading, following, and engaging with me in my three years writing View from the Student Section pieces. This was my last home game, and while I may not be reporting from the student section anymore, I will still be on this site.

You’ll see me in the comments sections, doing Sleeping with the Enemy segments, and writing pieces when the spirit moves me, and it’s because I love this site and this community. Even as basketball has divided us and torn us apart, you have given me laughs, strength, hope, and plenty of great pictures of food. You can hold your head high and know that you’ve become like family to me. I knew that before this game, but what I’ve seen on Saturday’s game thread and the recap’s comments has proven it. You made me feel all of the emotions when you stood up for me in the face of a pretty rattling moment. Thank you all so, so much.

To great friends and hopefully great Georgetown basketball in the years to come!