COLUMN: Close Games Aren't Always Great Games
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 02:02
Walking down the hallway of my dorm on Monday night, a kid in my hall asked me if I had gone to the Beanpot. I said I hadn’t. “Well,” he responded, “you missed a great game.”
Whatever you say, man, but the renewal of the Commonwealth Ave. rivalry wasn’t even that good.
I watched the Beanpot’s second fixture on TV, and three years, maybe even three months, from now, the goal scorers’ names will elude me, and I’m sure there are many others who won’t be able to name the trio of Eagles that beat Matt O’Connor twice before tallying an insurance goal thanks to an empty net.
Just because a game is close, or against a rival, doesn’t make it a classic matchup.
An example came on Saturday afternoon when the men’s basketball team nearly upset Notre Dame in South Bend.
Olivier Hanlan’s failed last-second trap with Joe Rahon was poor basketball. The former of the sophomore guards’ defending could have sealed the game, but sending Eric Atkins to the line with a chance to win with .7 seconds allowed the scorer of the final bucket that day to put the game into an extra period.
It was an exciting game, but not a great one.
A great game doesn’t have to put you on the edge of your seat. If it’s a thriller that gets the blood pumping, that’s fine, but a really good matchup has to consist of two excellent teams doing what they do best. They must be playing at full throttle and making few mistakes. They have to be well coached and the effort must be perfect on both sides. Games like this are rare, but they do happen.
Italian journalist Gianni Brera once wrote that the perfect game of soccer would end in a 0-0 tie. He wasn’t looking to suck the life out of soccer—he just wanted each team’s game plan to be carried out as well as it could be. Brera wanted mistakes during a game to be a rarity. The journalist’s relationship with Nereo Rocco, who coached AC Milan and Torino, played a role in developing the Italian tactical system known as catenaccio. The highly organized defensive system looked to limit errors.
The matchups on the hardwood, ice, grass, or turf that produce pieces of sport to behold are those in which strategies are executed by either team.
After Atkins knocked down a 3-pointer to shatter BC’s hopes of securing back-to-back victories, as time expired, Syracuse and Duke tipped-off. The Orange is the best team in the country, and the Blue Devils, ranked No. 17 at the time, have a solid squad that can match up against any in the nation.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s strategy was to combat Syracuse’s active 2-3 zone by shooting from the outside. The Blue Devils hit 15 3-pointers. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was willing to concede those shots, knowing his team could take advantage of the visitors down low. Having one of the top playmakers in the country in freshman guard Tyler Ennis, the Orange split Duke’s defense, to find forwards, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant for points. Bodies were either plastered on the rim, the opponent, or the floor in scrambles for the ball from the tip-off until the final horn sounded. You will not see many games better than the one that took place in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1.
When Notre Dame’s national title winning soccer team visited BC, the two teams produced one of the best soccer games of the college season. Coach Ed Kelly’s underdogs had to give as much as they could in order to drain its rival’s attack.
Harrison Shipp, who will play for Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire this spring, forced the Eagles to team up to stop him from connecting the Fighting Irish’s top line to its midfield. BC’s game plan worked even after Nick Butler was sent off, as the Eagles soldiered through overtime.
As far as BC’s basketball game with Notre Dame is concerned, it was sloppy. It had just one more turnover than the Duke-’Cuse game, but it’s the way the teams played that makes the difference. It was a rivalry game and the emotion was lacking. Both teams looked like they would rather be home getting ready to watch the 6:30 p.m. tip. The defenders were loose on their men and casual in boxing out.
In the Beanpot, it was the atmosphere that made everything seem above average. While the Terriers were able to keep it close, did anyone think that with the team BC puts out each night, that its rivals would slip by?
Maybe it was chanting, “Sucks to BU,” or taunting the rival school’s admission process, or claiming that Jesus loves Superfans, that added to the excitement of the Beanpot.
But it wasn’t a great game.