Ten Thousand Men
I don’t get too excited about March Madness. When it comes to all things basketball, I lost the thrill decades ago. Once basketball was the sport I followed most closely, first as a devoted Knicks fan, then a Celtics fan who spent many a winter evening at the Garden.
As for college basketball, I trace my loss of interest to the double-overtime UCLA-NC State semifinal in 1974. I see here that Bill Walton called it “one of the bleakest days in the history of Western Civilization.” What a game! No point watching anymore.
Until yesterday. I keep up with who wins and who loses. I just don’t go out of my way to watch. Yesterday, however, I was at home later than usual and I saw online that Harvard was leading Cincinnati with three minutes to go. I figured I may as well tune in for the ending.
I have a bit of history with Harvard basketball. The best recruiting class in many years arrived in 1969, led by heavily recruited James Brown, out of high school powerhouse DeMatha in suburban DC (and later noted TV personality).
Freshmen didn’t play varsity ball in those years. Once that class became sophomores, I attended their games regularly. That season featured a trip west to Amherst to play UMass, led by the best player in the country, Julius Erving. I remember listening to the game on the radio, looking forward to UMass’s complementary visit to Cambridge a year later. But Erving didn’t stick around. He was a star in the ABA by then.
Harvard never did reach its potential in those years, to my great disappointment. Now they have, under coach Tommy Amaker. Despite being a #12 seed in the region, they were widely picked to upset #5 seed Cincinnati yesterday. Hence, I tuned in to catch the last two minutes.
Sure enough, Harvard held on to win. (Story here.) It was fun to see, though I felt bad for Cincinnati, which had dreams of going far. Harvard certainly won’t, not with Michigan State looming. Though only a #4 seed, the Spartans have been playing like one of the top five teams in the country lately. I don’t expect Harvard to keep it close.
When the game ended, the Harvard band played the historic fight song, Ten Thousand Men of Harvard. You may recall some of the lyrics.
Ten thousand men of Harvard want vict’ry today,
For they know that o’er old Eli
Fair Harvard holds sway.
So then we’ll conquer old Eli’s men,
And when the game ends, we’ll sing again:
Ten thousand men of Harvard gained vict’ry today!
I can’t imagine when I last heard that on national TV. The best opportunity would have been in tournament games during the years of Harvard hockey greatness, but those are past. Now Harvard is the weakest of the four Boston-area hockey powers, not much of a rival even to Yale. Heck, Yale won the national championship last year. So much for holding sway over old Eli.
Well, at least I got this post up today, before Harvard’s March Madness ends.