Thursday, December 02, 2010

LeBron Feels, Fuels the Heat in Cleveland; A Good Game Last Night at Loyola

I wanted to touch on a basketball game I attended last night, but as I write this, there's another game on TV, the Miami Heat against the Cavaliers in LeBron James' return to Cleveland.

As one would expect, LeBron got booed heavily when he entered the court, when he was announced in introductions and every time he's touched the ball. The game's still early in the second quarter, but LeBron and the Heat have looked pretty good so far, although as the announcers have pointed out, they seem better when LeBron and Dwayne Wade aren't on the court together.

I have no problem with the Cleveland fans booing LeBron; he jilted them and deserves to feel uncomfortable for an evening. But while I have no great love for him, I also have no tremendous hatred, or even disdain for the decision he made (as I wrote after he made it). I certainly think some people, including Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, took the vitriol a bit too far and truly hope no fans do anything too stupid.

To their credit, thus far they have kept it civil while expressing their disappointment in the King's abdication.


Last night, I went to Loyola University's Gentile Center--they let me in even though I'm a Jew--to see Loyola men's basketball team play Butler.

Loyola was 7-0 going into the game against last year's NCAA tournament runner-up. Butler, whose best player, Gordon Hayward, left early for the NBA, had already lost 2 of 5 games this year, but are probably still favored to beat Loyola and everyone else for their 6th straight Horizon League title.

And last night Butler beat Loyola 65-63. It was a pretty fun game and although Butler held the lead for most of it, Loyola kept it close and had a chance to win. As I'd never been to any previous games at Loyola and only a handful of college games anywhere, even during my years at NIU, I don't have that much to compare it to.

But I was somewhat disappointed by the size of the crowd--3,758--which was kind of paltry considering that school is presumably back in session after Thanksgiving break, the Ramblers were off to their best start since 1962-63 (when they won the NCAA Championship) and they were playing their top league rival, one that had reached the NCAA Final last year in a Cinderella run and will be playing Duke in a rematch game this Saturday at the Meadowlands.

Even more dispiriting than the size of the crowd was an apparent lack of collegiate fervor. Yes, at both ends of the court there were student sections where the kids stood throughout the game, and there was a band and cheerleaders. But much of the rest of the crowd couldn't be bothered to rise to their feet even when the Ramblers cut the Bulldogs' lead to just 1 with 15 seconds left, or when they had ball in hand down 3 with a chance to tie. I mean, I have no direct ties to Loyola, I've never been to a game, don't really consider myself a fan. And yet I was excited enough to stand up at the exciting moments. But relatively few others did. It was kind of sad to see the apathy; both teams deserved a greater display of spirit.

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