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How you play the game

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, January 27, 2006

Anyone who has ever played a sport is familiar the old adage, “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” In my case, this phrase was a recurring theme throughout my athletic career. Whether it was my 2nd grade gym teacher consoling me after a sub-par performance in pillow polo, my 5th grade basketball coach trying to put yet another heart-breaker into proper perspective, or my uncle telling me to get back on the boat after I had swallowed half the lake while attempting to water ski, I have been constantly reminded that winning is not everything. While these words might be comforting in times of defeat, they are certainly no substitute for victory.

As a result, I am pretty sure that the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team would gladly trade all the talk about their great effort for a win tomorrow. As you know, the Irish have fallen on tough times lately. Still, the resiliency displayed by the Irish in recent weeks should not go unnoticed. Time and again this season, they have given their all only to come up painfully short at the end of games.

It all started in December with a 2-point loss at home to Michigan and has been followed by a January littered with improbable losses. In roughly a three week span, the Irish have fallen to Pittsburgh in double-overtime, to DePaul and Syracuse in close games, and at Marquette on an improbable last-second shot. However, it was Tuesday evening’s excruciating double-overtime loss to Georgetown that really made the close losses noticeable. Once again, the Irish overcame a large deficit and turned the game into a nail-biter, only to end up on the short end again.

It is sometimes hard to believe that there are players on this team who helped Notre Dame reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament just three years ago. Nowadays, students and fans alike have resorted to taking solace in the fact that the Irish are the best team in the nation with a 1-5 conference record. Even so, our team should continue to hold its head high. They have put forth great effort and determination thus far, and they are bound to reap the benefits in the near future.

Although the team would rather be graceful winners than losers, the manner in which they have handled their recent slide has been admirable. Neither head coach Mike Brey nor any of the players have pointed fingers or lamented over the fact that they are just one star player away from getting over the hump. In addition, there has been no dissension or off-the-court incidents that have marred struggling teams at other schools in recent years. The never-give-up attitude of this team has been commendable, and we should all be proud of it.

However, this is Big East basketball, not AYSO soccer. There are no orange slices at halftime, and every player does not automatically get a trophy at the end of the season. Simply put, we should expect our team to win. To be sure, the Irish have set an excellent example by handling their tough breaks with dignity, and they deserve our support now more than ever.

Unfortunately, basketball teams aren’t awarded points just because they are a bunch of good guys. There is no reason why we should not demand more of this team. Sixth-ranked Villanova visits the JACC tomorrow, and the game provides the Irish with the perfect opportunity to jump-start the season. In order to pull off the upset, they will not only have to display the same heart and determination that has gotten them so close to victory over the past few weeks, but they will also need to take care of the ball, play better defense and hit a few timely jumpers. In addition, they will need the home crowd to give them a lift and make things difficult for the visiting Wildcats.

So come out tomorrow and help the team turn things around, because all this losing is getting old. Even if we fall short again, let’s not forget the great effort that this team has put forth, and remember: Charlie has a great recruiting class coming in, and the Blue Gold game is only three months away. Go Irish!

Molly Acker is a senior communication studies and humanistic studies double major at Saint Mary’s. She can be contacted at acke6758@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.