February 13, 2007

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

He started brewing inside me during Friday night’s men’s basketball game against Brown, when a monstrous dunk by senior tri-captain Andrew Naeve caused me to jump to my feet and emphatically shoot my fist in the air. All of a sudden, my editor was pulling me back into my chair at the press table — an unspoken reminder that I was supposed to remain a symbol of objective journalism.

By Saturday’s Yale game, however, he — the Hyde in me -— was uncontrollable.Jekyll covers the basketball team and watches games with the intent of retelling an unbiased story. For most of the season — and much of my college life even before writing for the Sun — this guy has controlled my reaction to most Cornell sports. He loved sports as much as anything, but remained relatively detached as a spectator at Cornell games. He didn’t understand all the hype about hockey and rarely got defensive when a friend from another school would disparage one of our squads. In short, he was an average journalist and a crappy fan.

But there was always someone else inside, just waiting to reveal my true colors. He showed up on occasion but usually remained subdued. He is a man that is biased as hell and apparently has a tendency to throw fist pumps like he is at Bruce Springsteen concert. Thank you to the men’s basketball team for evoking this monster.

Anyone who was at the game on Saturday night — in which the Red held off Yale for a 60-59 victory — was a part of something very special. 3,465 fans cheered, gasped, criticized, heckled, sang, and experienced as a part of Cornell sports at its very finest ñ and I, for a change, was one of them.

I wasnít covering Saturday nightís game so I traded in the press pass for a spot in the Cornell bleachers. Pardon the cliche, but it certainly changed my perspective. The feeling of that much energy was an absolute rush that, as a fan, I had never experienced in my four years on East Hill — it was a rush that I certainly didn’t think could happen during this basketball season.

Immediately after I covered a 63-61 loss to Hartford on Nov. 28th, I jetted off to Chapel Hill, N.C., to watch the University of North Carolina take on Ohio State. The Smith Center was packed to the brim with over 21,000 people, all dressed in Carolina blue, chanting in unison, cheering at the right times, and literally embodying the definition of true fans. Comparing it to the Cornell game I had watched the day before is like comparing the Super Bowl to a pre-season (and pre-Beckham) Major League Soccer game. It was the most unbelievable basketball experience I had ever had, until Saturday.

Something has changed for the men’s basketball team since that Hartford game and everyone who saw the Yale game bore witness to that change and responded with an absolutely resolute display of energy and affection. Including my Hyde, who was cupping my neck with both hands as the Bulldog’s Casey Hughes missed those last two free throws. UNC was great, but this was Cornell — my Cornell. There may not have been 20,000 in attendance, but it felt like practically a million. It was literally incredible to hear the utter silence as freshman Ryan Wittman nailed his two free throws in comparison to the unbridled chaos that erupted during Hughes’ free throws — props to all those who officially gave the Red a home court advantage.

After the game, I even tried to convince myself that Cornell might actually be better than UNC according to the transitive property of inequalities which demonstrates that, since we beat Northwestern, who beat Miami, who beat North Carolina State, who beat the Tar Heels — we would beat UNC. Math is so easy when it applies to sports.

More important than my extremely shady understanding of algebra, we, that’s right I said “we” — have a legitimate chance to bring the Ivy League title back to Ithaca — and we all know the Madness that that would entail. (As you are reading this, I am likely still knocking on wood.) No doubt it is a tough road ahead with four consecutive road games, but after the way in which the Yale game transpired, I believe in this team more than ever. No matter what happens, it will be a blast enjoying the rest of the season, while my two sides wrestle for a control of my consciousness. I kind of hope that Hyde knocks Jekyll out seeing as how I really enjoyed the ‘dreadful shipwreck’ and I’m not sure there is such thing as an objective fist pump.