The Way It Was; The Way It Can Be

I’m doing my best here to move on.   Maryland is going to lose games because they are lacking skill in some fundamental errors.  What happened last night however is a different story.  Laying an egg against MEAC school is disgraceful.  The lack of effort and concentration to the task at hand is inexusable (class isn’t even in session by the way!).

However, I need to keep reminding myself that this team is comprised of 18-22 year old kids.  Inevitably, these things will happen.  The real question is how do you respond to a set back like this?

The ACC season begins on Saturday. There is much at stake. Can Gary Williams quiet the calls that he has lost his touch? Can a team clearly missing important pieces find a way to prove everyone wrong (even their fans, students, and alumni) and acheive success?

Indeed, the next 16 games will determine much about the future of our program. If I could give the Terps a pep talk; I would use the words uttered by the great Juan Dixon after he slayed yet another dragon (Kansas) enroute to Maryland’s only National Title in 2002:

“I’m a winner. I’ve been a winner all my life. I’ve beaten all odds since I was a kid. I believe in myself.”

That’s it, boys. That is what lies between you and a great year. For if a 6’3″ 165 lb shooting guard, who lost his parents due to a vicious cocktail of AIDS and drug abuse can put an entire University on his back and lead them to the promised land; then so too can these young men– the inheritors of the Dixonian legacy.

Go Terps. Prove the doubters wrong!

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Why I am a Terp Fan

I cannot recall ever having more difficulty writing a column about the Terps. A natural pessimist, I am feeling particularly pessimistic. These last two defeats have left me snake bitten.

However, our Terps are not in unchartered territory. Over the years, we have seen Maryland succeed against amazing odds. We have also seen them fall apart at the seams. This season has provided examples of both. Yet, with three games to go, here we are. The UNC win and subsequent wins are a distant memory. The Terps cannot afford to lose another regular season game.

The Terps entered desperation mode after the final buzzer sounded on Saturday. The loss to Miami has placed Maryland’s season in peril. As Terp fans, this terrain is all too familiar. In times like this, frustration builds to almost intolerable levels. After reading through some of the comments on this site, I can tell these recent losses and the Terps’ overall regression can call one’s loyalty and fanhood in to question.

It begs the question, why do we root so hard? Why does every loss feel so devastating and every win, so exhilarating? I guess the short answer is that there is no answer. Fans live and die by the Terps for different reasons.

If you are an Alumnus or Maryland native, being a Terp fan is a birthright. The Baltimore/DC area does not lack for sports teams. We have the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles, Nationals, Wizards and Caps, but the Terps have the power to unite the region like no other team. EVERYONE in Maryland cheers for the Terps.

There aren’t many schools on the college landscape that have such a captive audience. Kentucky has Louisville. Wisconsin has Marquette. In fact, the only schools with any college hoops relevance that have equal sway over their entire state are UConn, Arkansas, and LSU. Maryland is a bigger state than all three of them, so it is safe to say that the Terps indeed have a unique relationship with the Free State.

For me it goes a little deeper. Maryland has an ethos that I connect with on a deep level. Our Terps have been cast as permanent underdogs. Over the last 35 years no team in the country has gone toe-to-toe with two of the most elite programs in the country (Duke and UNC) and had as much success.

Maryland has been battling the two biggest and baddest bullies on the block and more or less held is own. Yet, no one nationally seems to notice. Haven’t we all felt undervalued and under appreciated at some point in our lives?

To further the point, it has been well established that the ACC has historically been the best conference in the nation. Duke and UNC have collected a combined six NCAA titles since 1982. Put another way, either Duke or UNC won the National title every four years. No other conference has two schools with such undeniable success.

Yet Maryland trudges along AND manages to win. Look at all this program has survived in the last 25 years. Len Bias’ tragic death nearly destroyed the athletic program ,and just as the program was starting to go beyond his death; the NCAA put the school on probation and handed them a ridiculous two-year post season and television ban. Can you imagine a school getting a similar penalty today for giving a recruit a ride to class?

Through it all Maryland has remained competitive. Dogged for years as a perpetual bridesmaid (all those sweet sixteens and top 10 finishes) without ever getting its moment in the sun. Finally redemption came and it felt like no other. No sports moment will ever compare to the way I felt as the seconds ticked down in Atlanta in 2002.

Under appreciated and unjustly treated (I haven’t even touched on the officiating), our Terps have been cast as permanent underdogs when we look upon the giants of the ACC. Some say that America loves an underdog, but I don’t get that feeling about the Terps. I’ve lived in California and Illinois and can count on one hand the number of times I have seen Terp gear in stores. I feel like Maryland basketball is our little secret.

Not being a household name may hurt us in recruiting, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Maryland is “our thing” (note: in Italian, “our thing” means something entirely different). It would feel tainted if I saw some random kid from the North Chicago suburbs rooting for Maryland.

I hope my little pep talk has helped. Terp Nation needs a big hug right now. Let’s hope that Gary Williams, who embodies this underdog ethos, can summon some of the old magic and find the answers to the problems that the last two losses have exposed.

Relevance

First of all, nobody is ever banned from this site. We want all Terp fans to have their say. I’m just saying, and I appreciate all those who backed me up, that we don’t want to hear how proud you are to be Terp fan a week/month/year after you say you are quitting on the program. The Terps are relevant in college basketball. Prove it, you might say? Okay, this is a 100% true story:

After the game on Saturday, I headed to a mall in Auburn Hills, Michigan with my wife and son. We were in Neiman Marcus and were looking at some of the children’s clothes. There was a rack with t-shirts of 4 colleges. Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and… Maryland. Damn right. Don’t say we aren’t relevant. And yes, of course, we bought one of them!

Maryland is a well known successful program in almost all sports and is recognized all over the country. Perhaps not as much as some others, but when was the last time you saw a Tennessee shirt sitting in a store in the midwest. We have a national championship within the past 10 years. Not many can say that. We have the most successful record against the country’s most hated team… Duke. We have more wins over #1 ranked teams than most schools out there. Of course, we are frustrated that we aren’t what some may call “elite”, but there aren’t many programs I’d trade with.

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