Sunday, March 20, 2016

After 54 Years, Finally

Yale alumni emerged in droves to support the men's basketball team in its first-round, NCAA games against Baylor and Duke in Providence. Yale appeared in the tournament for the first time since 1962. (AYA social media photos)
In downtown Providence during the latter days of a tolerable winter, Yale's men's basketball made a little of bit of history Mar. 17-19.

Alumni all over the country emerged in droves to

(a) discover the wonders and talents of a scrappy team with extraordinary rebounding skills,

(b) learn it's possible for a an Ivy League team that plays its home games in a Cathedral structure on the edge of campus (Payne Whitney Gym) to compete head-to-head with the powerhouses of the nation (those schools that offer abundant athletic scholarships and permit athletes to live among themselves in luxury dorms), and

(c) celebrate in TV spotlight in giddy fashion.

Yale beat Baylor in Providence in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the 2016 edition.  It was its first appearance in 54 years.  It was its first win ever in what quite a few know as "March Madness" and "The Big Dance." 

Two days later, with national media and social websites trying to make sense of Yale and big-time athletics in the same sentence (and resorting to Ivy League-taunting humor to explain the phenomenon), Yale scratched back into contention and found itself down by 3 points with less than a minute ago against mighty Duke, last year's NCAA champion.

The Bulldogs lost to the Blue Devils by a margin (7) that proved that for a day (or a season, at least) Yale basketball ranked among the best in the country. 

Alumni trekked up I-95 and swarmed Providence (above), as if it were a Harvard-Yale football game.

When the buzzer went off to end the game against Duke, alumni in the arena and in social media around the country held their heads high, impressed by the efforts of the Yale team and glad to have tasted--at least for a week or two--a little bit of the madness of college sports at the elite level. 

Yale "shocked the nation" by beating Baylor for its first NCAA tournament win ever.  Two days later, Yale scrambled back to make the game close, but lost to Duke.

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