The station is known in the local parlance as 1010 WINS. I mention this because two Fridays ago, in a live sequence that could appropriately be titled HARVARD LOSES THEN WINS, that spanned two sports and two arenas, and lasted for almost precisely 22 minutes of game time, I was treated to a broad and satisfying taste of the world of sports.
Friday night was the start of Penn-Princeton weekend in Cambridge, a big occasion for the Crimson squads in action and the fans that follow them. After a hearty meal at Shabbat 1000, I hurried across the river to catch the tail end of men’s basketball’s always-exciting clash with the Tigers. (I’m so shomer!)
I arrived at Lavietes Pavilion just in time for Princeton sharpshooter Kyle Koncz to connect from downtown with 10:42 left to stake the Tigers to a narrow 40-39 lead in the see-saw battle. From that moment on, however, Harvard went on a tear. With Michael Beal knifing through the lane for two acrobatic three-point plays, Matt Stehle grabbing every rebound in sight, and the defense staying firm on the perimeter, the Crimson built up as much as an eight-point edge, and fashioned a seemingly solid six-point cushion with 1:17 remaining when big man Brian Cusworth converted a pair of free throws.
From there, Harvard pulled a Jacobellis. That is to say, minus the snow and the gratuitous “method air,” it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
First, Princeton guard Edwin Buffmire, who has only a few more inches in height that I do and considerably less hair, yanked down an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and put it back through the hoop to trim the lead to four. Then the Crimson committed the first of two horrendous turnovers against the Tigers’ desperation full-court press. Scott Greenman made them pay by draining a long three-pointer that hushed the crowd and brought the score to a suddenly tense 59-58. One more steal and a vaguely inevitable baseline jumper (with a scant two-tenths of a second to go) later and Princeton had completed the improbable comeback, Harvard the monumental collapse.
All traces of excitement were summarily vacuumed out of the gym and the crowd shuffled towards the exits in mostly stunned silence. My (or, more accurately, our, since my roommate Joe Kerns was my companion throughout the night’s drama) appetite for athletics not yet sated, instead of turning for home, we advanced to Bright Hockey Center, a stone’s throw away, where the same two teams were locked in a tight 3-3 contest with just over ten minutes left in regulation, according to the scoreboard as we walked in.
Now this is a very important live sports lesson: only visit the restrooms between innings, halves, periods, or sets. You might miss something. Such was my fate as I found bladder relief before my seat; from the sound of the band striking up the fight song as I stood stationed at the urinal I knew the Crimson had potted a go-ahead goal.
Something told me, though, that that wouldn’t be the end of it. My karma couldn’t be that bad, spectator sports satisfaction couldn’t be that fleeting. And sure enough, the Tigers quickly tied the game up and sent it to overtime. Talk about getting to see it all: there was even a penalty shot, narrowly missed by hat-tricking Kevin Du 56 ticks into extra time. But the writing was on the wall—the game-winner was only seconds away. Dylan Reese picked out Jon Pelle at the far post with a perfect pass, Pelle one-timed it in, and the jubilant Harvard bench emptied to mob Pelle and celebrate the 5-4 OT win.
And herein lies the beauty of sports. In under an hour, on a cold New England night, in a pair of mediocre venues cheering for one good and one not-so-good college team, you can experience certainty and shock, can feel bitterness and delight, can observe displays of breathtaking skill and woeful ineptitude, can run through a veritable gamut of emotions and emerge purified.
In a matter of minutes, I witnessed both the joys of victory and the agony of defeat. On two ends of the sportsmanship spectrum, I saw a Princeton skater throw a hissy fit near the bench after he was whistled for a delay of game violation and I saw Stehle nobly help a fallen defender to his feet as the horn sounded on another heart-wrenching loss for the senior.
I was crushed. And then I was redeemed. Because, if you watch enough sports, you always are. It just usually takes more than 22 minutes.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.