30 November 2011

De caritate Sanctae Crucis (The Charity of the Holy Cross)

30 November, 2011 11.00p.m. by Darcy Ireland
The published recap can be found here.

“If you see charity, you see the Trinity.” - Augustine, De trinitate ('On The Trinity' VIII. 8. 12.

If I were to use the word ‘overwhelming’ to describe my initial reaction to seeing, and experiencing, the cavernous and never-ending interior of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence that unusually lukewarm Tuesday evening, I would not be deceiving the reader. As I explored the confines of the Center, I astutely observed the bold, commercialized promotion of the ‘hometown’ team, the hosting Providence College Friars, who were to play the Crusaders of the College of the Holy Cross that same evening. Being my first adventure into the Center, I spent a sizable number of minutes meandering from the entrance to my ticketed seat, which provided a thankful view of the court. The host team’s band played a surprisingly nice piece as I nestled into my spot.

What caught my attention once I began to curiously scan the court - the phrase, ‘Dave Gavitt Court’ - caused me to ponder some thoughts.

The early fifth-century Holy Church produced arguably the most influential patristical writer it has known as of yet. Augustine, sometimes called the ‘Doctor of the Church,’ is deemed as such for his generously-detailed expositions on such theological topics as free will, predestination, and polemics. In the early half of the 390s, while Augustine was still the bishop of his hometown church in Hippo (modern-day Annaba, in Algeria), he wrote a concise exposition of the Nicaean Creed called ‘Faith and the Creed.’ In short, he addresses, line-by-line, the Creed, which covers such topics as the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, and the omnipotence of God. Towards the end of the text, he essentially calls for his Christian brothers to look to their common faith to bind them, no matter their differences in doctrine, so long as their views are orthodox.

The recollection of the patristic father Augustine could be seen as relevant when one considers one of the most profound differences between the rival colleges I saw play the game of basketball that night. While Holy Cross was founded by the Society of Jesus Order of the Catholic Church, Providence was established by the Dominican Order. While the former was founded to rejuvenate the missionary of the Catholic church in light of the ‘medieval’ age of exploration, the latter was founded by a theologian as a way to enhance the faith of the believer with a profound and strong foundation in academia to defend Christianity against heretics. One could also see a similar contrast between the former coaches Joe Mullaney, a basketball traditionalist, and Dave Gavitt, a basketball progressive.

Mr. Mullaney was on the roster of the 1947 Holy Cross team, which was rightly crowned by the N.C.A.A. as the national champion. Mr. Mullaney would play for the Crusaders for two more seasons, then be drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 1949 N.B.A. draft. Even after Mr. Mullaney left, and throughout the 1950s, Holy Cross was seen as a national powerhouse in the sport. Meanwhile, Providence had yet to emerge onto the national scene as its purple-clad New England rival had done.

Although the first ten minutes of the first half of the game was closely contested, with no team clearly distinguishing itself with a surmountable lead that could not be doubted, the Crusaders held the lead more often than not. With twelve minutes yet to be played before the half-time, Holy Cross held a three-point lead after guard Justin Burrell hit a three-point shot to cap a 5-0 Crusaders run.

Then, the host team turned on its engines, so to speak.

Mr. Mullaney took over as the head coach of the Providence Friars for the 1956 season. Under the tutelage of the Holy Cross alumnus, the Friars won National Invitational Titles and he subsequently coached ranked Friars teams. Yet, the series with Holy Cross during this time was even, with Providence holding an eight-to-six edge in head-to-head wins.

Even though the Crusaders were still very much in the match, the Friars limited their mistakes, began to block shots, and relied on their athleticism to at least keep the rival Crusaders from taking the game away. The increased intensity of the Friars could most obviously be seen at the under-five-minute mark of the first half, when Providence began to defend with a full-court press in an attempt to intimidate the able back-court of the boys of Worcester. By half-time, the tally was Providence 47, Holy Cross 38. Although one could be tempted to conclude that the hosting Friars were in the midst of a run that would permanently prevent the Crusaders from having a chance to win the game, another half of a game in which absolutely anything may ensue had yet to unfold.

The protégé of Mr. Mullaney, Mr. Dave Gavitt, who was an alumnus of Dartmouth College, assumed the head coaching job of the Friars for the 1970 season. The man from Hanover oversaw a number of editions of Friars that temporarily turned the rivalry with the Crusaders upside-down; during Mr. Gavitt’s tenure, Providence finished with ten victories to six by the Crusaders, and the momentum definitely favored the Friars. The 1973 N.C.A.A. national semi-final berth by the Friars seemed to be the final nail hit into the coffin that was, and is, the classic New England rivalry.

The onset of the second half of the match was bleak for my outlook on the anticipated game. The Friars would lead the Crusaders by as many as thirteen points by the under-ten-minutes mark of the second and final half. Although the majority of the crowd salivated at the sight of the flashiness of the occasional dunk by a member of the Providence Friars, I frankly kept contemplating whether the Friars had a sense of humility within them at all.

Unfortunately for the satisfied home crowd, the game, and the rivalry, certainly was far from certain.

As the stint of Mr. Gavitt as the head coach of the Providence Friars was winding down, the Holy Cross Crusaders inexplicably invigorated themselves. The 1977 Crusaders began the season 12-1, but were not ranked by the Associated Press during that season due to losses suffered during inconvenient stretches of the season. On 5 March 1977, the rivals played a crucial game in the Hartford Civic Center. The winner would be granted an automatic berth to the N.C.A.A. Tournament. The unranked Holy Cross Crusaders (22-5) defeated the eighth-ranked Providence Friars by the tally of 68-67. Although Providence would be mercifully granted an at-large berth into the 1977 N.C.A.A. Tournament, the real story was Holy Cross nearly defeating top-ranked Michigan in its first-round match. Holy Cross had shown its rival that it was not irrelevant or dead.

Between the twelve-minute-mark and the six-minute-mark, the Crusaders stunned the crowd - much to my delight - by racing to a nearly unfathomable 16-3 run to tie the game, which appeared to be over, particularly to the Friars fanatics. A one-handed dunk by Crusaders forward R.J. Evans emphatically announced to everyone involved that the game was not over, that the match was far from concluded. His Holy Cross Crusaders were not to be taken lightly, and they had an ancient rivalry to honor. After all, he seemed to proclaim to the hostile crowd, the wings of the Eagles of Chestnut Hill had been clipped by this same team.

The Friars comprehended the message, and responded accordingly.

The 1978 season served as an omen for the rivalry. Fourteenth-ranked Holy Cross, which began the season at 11-1 entering a game at twelfth-ranked Providence on 10 January, would be blasted by the Friars by a unexpectedly lopsided score of 90-64. The rivalry would not be the same after that fatal game. While the Crusaders eventually fell entirely from the poll, the Friars lingered in the poll, daring to ascend it. A re-match later that season, which the Friars also won, merely affirmed what could be seen as inevitable in hindsight, that is the turning state of the rivalry.

A few mistakes by the Crusaders of Holy Cross in the final minutes of the game that night led to enough points scored by the Friars to allow them to unfortunately win the game by a final tally of 82-77. The phrase ‘Friars win!’ beamed from an overhead screen. As the game completed, I arose, then stood still for a moment. Nothing short of offering applause for the valiant Crusaders could be offered by me.

Yet, I still needed closure, pertinently with the stinging loss.

Mr. Gavitt, after coaching the 1979 Providence Friars, helped spearhead the talks that would lead to his being the architect of the Big East Conference. While the Crusaders struggled to find success throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Friars emerged from a few years of adjustment to its new conference to be successful, while dominating its rivalry with Holy Cross during the two decades in question. After Providence helped charter the Big East, and the Friars tried to adjust to the move, Mr. Mullaney again assumed the head coaching job. Despite the diversion between the programs at Holy Cross and Providence, the series was surprisingly even until the 1985 season, when Mr. Mullaney resigned. Although Providence held the edge in wins over Holy Cross, the sum differential was merely five points in favor of the Friars.

Augustine called for his Christian brothers to use charity to look beyond differences in doctrine to find the commonality in their spiritual convictions. For the Holy Cross program, in light of the decision to decline its invitation to help charter the Big East Conference, the doctrinal preference is to ensure that academics are always prioritized over athletics. For the Providence Friars program, perhaps influenced by Mr. Gavitt, the doctrinal preference is to tolerate at least an equating of academic and athletic success, maybe even an allowance of the latter to the former. Mr. Mullaney, the Crusader of old, found great success playing for his alma mater and his first of two occasions coaching the Friars. It is interesting that he struggled to successfully coach the Friars after Providence made the leap to charter the Big East Conference, and that the rivalry with Holy Cross was quite even. But it was Mr. Gavitt, who had no affiliation with Holy Cross, who “understood that the future of college basketball was super-conferences and lucrative national television contracts (Coren 87).”

The traditionalist mindset of Mr. Mullaney, compared to the progressive viewpoint of Mr. Gavitt, are certainly doctrinal differences in the orthodox ‘creed’ of managing an athletics program as an honorable extension of the mission of a given institution. However, neither are heretical, that is both the traditionalist and progressive ways are valid. Likewise, the programs of Holy Cross and Providence could be perceived as doctrinally different in perceiving what ought to be prioritized in light of what exactly ought to be sought for success. Similarly, the Society of Jesus Order has an understanding of its religious faith that differs from the Dominican Order. In all these cases, the charity of Augustine can be looked to for a harmonious and orthodox existence that benefits all involved.

The young adult with the purple tie that paced from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center that evening may use charity to compassionately accept the view of the program represented by the white-clad, home-town team. However, he chooses to accept the traditionalist mindset the purple-donning program of Worcester embraces and promotes. Yet, he knows not who shall gain the ‘upper hand’ in that ancient New England rivalry next. All he can do is wait with anticipation, allow history to continue to unfold as it always has done, and hope the ensuing momentum favors the valiant Crusaders.

“Unless the Christian faith gather men together into a society in which brotherly love can operate, it remains less fruitful. Hence we believe [in] the Holy Church, that is to say, the Catholic Church.... for the Church loves its neighbour, and easily forgives his sins because it prays to be forgiven by him who has reconciled us to himself, blotting out all past transgressions and calling us to new life.” - Augustine, Faith and the Creed x, 21. (LCC, 366.)

Author’s Note: This article is meant to conclude a two-part arc on Holy Cross and its ancient New England rivalries. He promises something quite refreshing with his next submitted piece.

19 November 2011

De humilitate Sanctae Crucis (The Humility of the Holy Cross)

19 November, 2011 11.00p.m. by Darcy Ireland

Author’s Note: The author would like to sincerely apologize for failing to provide photographic proof of his attendance at this game in Worcester. The author’s camera was unexpectedly indisposed due to technical difficulties. With a plea for compassion, the author beseeches his audience as he nevertheless provides his scheduled recap of that ‘holy’ battle in central Massachusetts. Additionally, he would like to dedicate this recap to Mr. Bob Canedo (HCBally), who was unable to attend the game at the last minute. His passion for the Crusaders is obvious, and I hope that he finds this recap satisfactory. The recap in its published form can be found here.

“God is like a spectator at a chariot race; He watches the action the charioteers perform, but this does not cause them.” - J.E. Watts on Boethius, Introduction to ‘De consolatio philosophiae.’

A crisp, cool rush of wind greeted me as I descended from the bus that safely brought me to the cozy city of Worcester that Friday evening. An anticipated match-up between the Crusaders of the College of the Holy Cross and the Eagles of Boston College awaited me in the nearby D.C.U. Center, which was a mere five-minute stroll from the station. Once I had entered the arena and had settled into my seat, I noticed the unusual arrangement of the floor upon which the teams would compete. The layout indicated that the arena was designed to house hockey matches; for tonight’s game, a makeshift hardwood floor was centrally placed on the ground, which would typically be iced (for the American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks, as I would later find out). Having arrived early for the match, I deeply mused upon the implications of the game, particularly through pondering the ancient rivalry itself.

Before I knew it, I surprisingly found myself contemplating the early sixth century.

A significant controversy regarding the doctrinal understanding of the relationship between God and Christ threatened to tear the Holy Church apart at the onset of the sixth century. That controversy greatly impacted the political relations between the heretical Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy and the orthodox Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople. It was that tension that led to Boethius, an orthodox Christian who was a subject of the royal court of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric, to be falsely accused of crimes he did not commit and subsequently be sentenced to death. While awaiting his execution in a prison cell, he wrote his De consolatio philosophiae, or ‘The Consolation of Philosophy.’ This work, considered his magnum opus, provided the opportunity for him to reconcile his spiritual beliefs with a philosophical understanding of his dire situation. Philosophy, personified as a majestic, wise, and caring woman, tends to Boethius, who is pictured as being bed-ridden, with antidotes, or philosophical reasonings to explain his state. Through the length of the text, the philosophers discuss topics such as predestination, free will, and the consequences that result from Fortune, personified as a deceptive woman, in one’s life. The philosophical discussion regarding the double-edged sword that is lady Fortune’s actions in a given person’s life greatly colored my interpretation of a wonderful basketball match between Boston College and Holy Cross. A relevant and wonderful example of the consequences of the work of lady Fortune can be found within the story of this rivalry.

The current account of the longstanding rivalry between the Colleges really intensified with the recruitment of point guard Bob Cousy, which is the example in question. As the New York Times once reported in its 15 March 2007 article on Holy Cross, written by Mr. Dave Anderson, Cousy had the following to say regarding his recruitment by both Colleges:

“Ken Haggerty [a Holy Cross player] had Doggie Julian, the Holy Cross coach, write me a letter, but I just filed it away,” Cousy recalled Monday in a telephone interview from his Florida home. “I went up to visit Boston College, but when they told me there were no dorms, that I’d have to live with a family, I went home and looked at the Holy Cross brochure that Doggie sent me. Holy Cross had dorms.”

That essentially sealed Mr. Cousy’s recruitment verdict. The point guard would be a reserve on the 1947 national title team and would serve a starring role for the Crusaders’ third place team the following year. Mr. Cousy’s dazzling ball-handling skills and accolades greatly contributed to New England’s sudden embrace of the up-and-coming game in an era when many more people revered the American-style football team of the Boston College Eagles, which still claims the 1940 national title in that sport. The legacy of Mr. Cousy not only enhanced his alma maters’ national image through his ‘magical’ gift, but also affirmed to himself that lady Fortune smiled favorably upon him due to his decision.

The spectators in Worcester certainly were in for an unexpected surprise that crisp New England night. The ‘Houdini of the Hardcourt’ slashed and dashed through the defense of the Eagles that night. Although he donned the number ‘2’ jersey for the Crusaders, one could see Cousy dazzling the crowd with his masterful ball handling and under-handed lay-ins. Really, I truly refer to Mr. Devin Brown, the current guard for Holy Cross who could almost be mistaken for Cousy by how he played that night, helped secure a great victory with his 32 points on a crisp 11-19 shooting mark. Mr. Brown served as the necessary spark to fulfill the predetermined outcome of the match. Thanks to his efforts, the Crusaders took what was a close ball game and ended it on an astounding 26-10 run. The 'OVERRATED!' chants from the student section of Holy Cross, which began with approximately five minutes yet to be played, merely affirmed the decision of the battle, which was fated by the whim of lady Fortune. From that drastic change in the outcome of the game, another vital musing of mine regarding the historical significance of the series must be recollected, one that may have sealed the fates of the individual programs in recent years, and further seeks to color this ‘holy’ rivalry.

In 1979, a number of Northeastern schools decided it would be in the best interests of their basketball programs to create the Big East Conference. This new conference was debating whether to invite Boston College or the College of the Holy Cross as a charter member of the budding group. As recently as 1977, Holy Cross was considered a national powerhouse in college basketball, which made itself look attractive to the Big East, despite being thirty years removed from its one and only national title. Although Holy Cross had the slight edge over Boston College due its richer basketball pedigree, Holy Cross ultimately declined to join, citing a need to ensure that its academics came before its solid athletics program. Boston College received that invitation, which it accepted. Lady Fortune would make sure that by each decision made, each program wouldn’t be the same again - one for the better, and the other for the worse.

The game I had the privilege to watch was symbolic of how truly righteous the choice of the Holy Cross was compared to the poor choice of Boston College, even if it seemed that Holy Cross had sacrificed supposedly any chance, or fate, of having success on the hardwood again by not joining the Big East Conference. That night, that comely night, the Crusaders, and implicitly the College of the Holy Cross itself, shined in magnificence, showing its thanks to Fortune for her generous blessing towards them. However, Holy Cross has nobody to thank but itself, for the College was the entity that had the fatal choice to make for its own sake. That 86-64 Holy Cross victory over the boys from Boston did nothing short of affirming my convictions and lovely musings on the matter.

While the fun-loving Crusader mascot could easily be spotted perusing the courtsides, entertaining the proud Worcester natives and celebrating when the victory was assured, the anthropomorphic eagle from the Heights was nowhere to be found that night. Perhaps he and his humiliated, yet humbled, boys from Chestnut Hill, were tending to their badly-clipped wings. From that victory, it was easy to realize that while the lady Fortune was kind to Holy Cross, she ultimately was not as kind to Boston College. I believe that even Boethius himself would argue that humility is the better and preferred choice to folly, that striving for the beautiful and enlightening truths found in academia ought to be favored to the flashiness often found in modern athletics.

Thus concludes my account of the latest episode of that old and great rivalry between two Jesuit Catholic Christian colleges nestled in the Bay State. As for me, I do not regret using my freedom of will to choose to attend that latest episode of the rivalry. Additionally, I am thankful for choosing to root for the victorious Crusaders, who wisely chose the avenue by which to be uplifted by the lady Fortune, that is academics always should be prioritized over athletic prowess. By that win that night in Worcester, it seems that Holy Cross found true consolation by knowing that making the wise choice eventually leads to victory in both basketball and life.

“‘For bad fortune, I think, is more use to a man than good fortune. Good fortune always seems to bring happiness, but deceives you with her smiles, whereas bad fortune is always truthful because by changing she shows her true fickleness. Good fortune deceives, but bad fortune enlightens.’” - Boethius, ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’ II. viii.

06 November 2011

Saint Mary's: The Inexorable Game

6 November, 2011 4.40p.m. by Darcy Ireland

The following article is meant to be a sample article, to let readers taste the sort of delicacies the author


to prepare throughout the dawning 2011-12 season (T.M.M. Season 8). The article highlights the

Saint Mary's

at Oregon match held on 12 December 2009, which the author had the privilege to attend.

The Gaels not only

defeated the Ducks that evening, 81-76, but they also advanced to a regional semi-

final in the 2011 NCAA Men's

Division I Basketball Tournament, marking the best season for the Gaels

since 1959, when they made a regional

final in that year's tournament. This article's title was inspired

by the title of this relevant article, written by Mr.

Kyle Whelliston. The author would appreciate and

would highly value any given critical, yet constructive

comments. Enjoy!

When arrogance appears, disgrace follows,

But wisdom is with those who are unassuming.

Wealth is of no avail on the day or wrath,

But righteousness saves from death.

(Proverbs 11.2, 4; Kethuvim)

EUGENE, Or. -- The audience attending that game ought to have known better. “That little school in California.” “Oh, that place where [Portland Trail Blazers point guard] Patty Mills played college ball.” If one were to define that night as if it was a sea of quotes, one would find that that ocean was filled with interesting expressions of opinions. Yet, it shouldn't surprise the readers that such petty remarks were uttered regarding the Gaels from Moraga. After all, a majority of the people attending that game in charming MacArthur Gymnasium were either students of the host institution or former students of it. The Ducks weren't here to lose a match to 'that little school in California,' to drop a game to 'that high-school team from the Bay Area.' The host team was here to dismantle the Gaels and consistently win, perhaps even at all costs. Sometimes, fate is necessary to humble the hearts of those involved in a given situation. In this case, the truly better team won that night in Eugene. The Gaels weren't content with attempting to merely win its conference title and bow out to some larger institution in postseason play. Their performance that night proved that the boys from Moraga had the necessary grit and determination to win with humility, respect, and selflessness.

The student section around me was undoubtedly clad in its school colours of green and yellow. Although I took a cue from the surrounding fellow students by dressing in a modest, forest green shirt and a pair of jeans, I honestly chose to cheer neither the Oregon Ducks nor the Saint Mary's Gaels that night. As an unbiased, quiet, and researched observer, I intended to simply see the fighting spirit of the boys from Moraga with my own eyes.

Now, this was the last year of eligibility for the Gaels starting center, Omar Samhan, whom many media outlets regarded as an absolute 'beast' of a player. Having heard of Samhan beforehand, I was curious to see what the center could do. Well, the fellow certainly could play basketball, even against the supposedly big and bad young men from Eugene. However, my primary attention was focused upon the collective, and efficient, efforts of his Gaels team, who did not disappoint those, including myself, who were seeking a good show.

The boys from Moraga flashed their offensive efficiency that night, compensating an unusually low number of three-point baskets by precisely shooting baskets closer to the net. Their total firepower fueled the Gaels to a 81-76 victory over the confident trees of men from the school nestled in the Willamette Valley. By the time that game had ended, I respectfully cheered for the admirable Gaels, having been impressed by their beautiful display and humble attitude.

After the final buzzer, which bookended the second half of the match, the student section was obviously distraught and perhaps even surprised. For them, 'that little school in California,' indeed. Little to no respect seemed to be given to those gents from that lush valley, which is enveloped by green, rolling hills, and is east of Oakland. The sheer irony of the reaction to the match by the supporters of the Ducks was that most of the students attending were originally from California. More than vividly do I recall walking by a chap, who donned a t-shirt which proclaimed the University of Oregon as the 'University of California-Eugene' one day, while trotting through the heart of the campus. The disrespect showed by the student section, particularly by the lads from the California Bay Area, somewhat astounded me. However, the Gaels, the Irish warriors, who won that battle that night could take solace in knowing that at least one person in the Willamette Valley chose to positively appreciate that victory for their sakes.

Pride goes before ruin,

Arrogance, before failure.

Better to be humble and among the lowly

Than to share spoils with the proud.

(Proverbs 16.18-19, Kethuvim)