Down goes Syracuse

Well, I love a good surprise. Sports are full of them. When Kirk Gibson hit his game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Vin Scully said his now famous line: In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened! The US beat Russia in the 1980 Olympics and Al Michaels exclaimed: Do you believe in miracles? Yes! I wasn’t alive for those, but I’ve witnessed my fair share of surprises. Rivera blew the save in Game 7. Tyree caught the pass. Luis Castillo dropped the ball. And then, yesterday, BC beat Syracuse.

Last night was different. There are surprises, and then there are SURPRISES. This was a Surprise, with a capital S. It was a miracle. It was impossible.  Do you know the last time a college basketball team below .500 beat the #1 team on the road? It was 1955. Eisenhower was President. This BC team lost to Toledo, lost to Providence, lost to Harvard, they had lost nineteen times and won six. They have one of the worst defenses in the entire country. Syracuse has beaten everyone, even in the now-stacked ACC. 25 wins, 0 losses. They are bigger, more talented, more experienced, they have future NBA stars, a Hall-of-Fame coach, and last night they even had their fans behind them. And for most of the game we were losing. Then we came back. We hit threes, we hit free throws, we forced overtime. There is no logical explanation for why we won. But we did.

This game was for Dick Kelley. He was the longtime basketball media contact and sports information assistant. I never met him, but he had a huge influence on BC sports, and everyone who knew the man respected and admired him. He had been battling ALS for two years and died last week. The team was wearing a DK patch.  After the game, Ryan Anderson gave an emotional interview. “We can’t be denied. DK is looking down on us. He’s got us.” Everyone said the same thing: Dick Kelley was smiling from wherever he was.

Last year we almost beat Duke at home, and I remember having a similar feeling of excitement and disbelief as BC took the lead in the final minutes. There was some emotion, too. I never told anyone this, but I wanted that win to be for my grandfather. He had died two nights earlier. I thought maybe a win would be a sign, because there was no other logical explanation. And, sure, maybe that’s an irrational thought, but sometimes you try to apply meaning to things, you look for signs even if there aren’t any. We didn’t win, and I wrote about that at the time, but that was OK. Because even if we didn’t win, it was an exciting few hours, and that’s all you can ask for when you go to a game.

If BC played Syracuse 100 more times, they’d probably win 99 of those. But every now and then, even with a 1% chance of victory, the underdog comes out on top. The 1% was last night. Sports can be predictable, outcomes can be expected, but surprises happen. It’s always good to be reminded of that.

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