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.

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