Thursday, June 1, 2017
As published in The County Times (http://countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
I owe the men’s lacrosse team at Towson University, my alma mater, an apology. After securing the CAA conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers went on an epic heater.
In round one, we (alumni status qualifies for “we” usage, right?) laid waste to Penn State. The second-ranked Syracuse Orange were next. No problem: Towson 10, Cuse 7. The win over Syracuse earned Towson its third trip to lacrosse’s Final Four and a date with the Ohio State Buckeyes last Saturday.
It was 7-3 Tigers at halftime and all was just freak-out-splendid. Then I unknowingly transmitted The Darkness through the television, to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts and into every innocent soul in the Towson locker room. When the clock expired, the scoreboard chronicled the carnage: Buckeyes 11, Tigers 10. The dream was over. Dead. The only thing left was the primal wailing and the wretched prose of a madman and 1995 Towson graduate somewhere in Leonardtown.
The Darkness is that very real, very evil force enveloping D.C. professional sports. It is to the hopes of D.C. sports fans what Round-Up is to a misplaced weed or a famished seagull is to a Thrasher’s French fry on the Ocean City boardwalk. I thought it was quarantined to the D.C. area. Now I’m worried that I’m Patient Zero, that I’m the curse and that I, through my fandom, infected my beloved Tigers.
And if that’s possible, even probable, what’s next? With Baltimore compromised, are the Ravens and O’s doomed? And what of youth sports? Could I ruin high school or rec-league seasons? Oh the kids…the kids…
Avoid me like the next great plague. Shutter the doors to your school gym. Establish a perimeter around local soccer fields. Or…feel free to buy me a drink and reintroduce me to something I’ve lost hold of - reality. As Janis Joplin said, I’m “feeling near as faded as my jeans.”
Okay then. Enough of all that. Lacrosse, Towson, curses: these were unintended topics. But here we are again, off on another uncontrollable tangent. Grab the stick, man! Get control of this beast! Course correct!
There we are. Kevin Durant is what this is about: The man who strolled into free agency last summer, ignored his hometown Wizards, broke hearts in Oklahoma City and signed with the Golden State Warriors. With a single pen-stroke he so concentrated the talent in the NBA to two cities – Cleveland and Oakland – that the regular season was rendered a tedious formality. This year would end with Dubs v. Cavs and, by God, here we are.
Durant received much grief for his decision and the competition-neutering ripple it sent through the league. How could he sell out like this? Why destroy all he had built in Oklahoma City? Did he not care that his legacy would be reduced in Golden State even if he won multiple titles because, well, he now should win multiple titles? Wouldn’t championships with that Warriors roster equate to glorified participation trophies?
I initially hated Durant’s decision for all these reasons. He’s a beloved local and this just felt so LeBron-to-Miami-ish, minus an awkward primetime announcement and arrogance-infused pep rally.
But I’m coming around. The Finals start the day this hits newsstands: Cavs v. Warriors, LeBron v. Durant, Steph Curry v. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love v. Draymond Green. Who couldn’t dig that? And really, is it any different than Celtics v. Lakers, Magic v. Bird, Kareem v. Parish and Worthy v. McHale? Frankly, it isn’t.
Right. So here’s where I am: I respect Durant for wanting to surround himself with elite talent. Don’t we all seek such situations during our professional careers? Ultimate success is the point, isn’t it? Does the formula really matter? And should a player be criticized for sacrificing statistics and MVP awards for championships? Lawd, I hope not.
In reflection, I suppose I owe Durant an apology too. Will I root for him versus the Cavs? It’s doubtful. But if recent history serves, my alignment with the Cavs will virtually guarantee Durant gets what he went to Golden State for: a championship. One team’s Darkness is another’s light.