Duke. North Carolina. Kentucky. University of Vermont?
Sure, the Catamounts aren’t exactly the first team to come to mind when thinking about NCAA basketball, but hey, it’s not as if I can afford traveling 2000 miles for a weekend. Burlington, on the other hand, is much more accessible.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that university basketball, or any university sport for that matter, is an entirely different thing south of the border. Basketball isn’t just a game; it’s a community event.
As I walked up to the gym to watch UVM take on Iona (who?) in December, a shuttle bus similar to the ones we have on campus pulled up and unloaded around 40 people, most of whom were waving flags, wearing Catamounts hats and t-shirts, and yelling with excitement.
These shuttle buses kept coming, and it was obvious that pretty much all of Burlington was coming to watch the game.
Now, obviously Burlington is a smaller town than Montreal, and comparatively, Burlington-ites (Burlingtonians?) have less options when deciding what to do with their Sunday . but the people piling out of those buses seemed genuinely interested in basketball, and weren’t there merely to kill an afternoon. UVM fans seemed to be just that: fans.
I saw little girls wearing Catamounts jerseys. The elderly couple sitting next to me was just as angry after a bad call – and let out just as many profanities – as anyone in the gym. And, to my journalistic delight, there in the front row, was a long table where numerous radio, TV and print sports writers and commentators watched the game unfold.
The gym itself, while not exactly matching up to the ones I was used to seeing on TV during March Madness, was filled to capacity with nearly 3,300 spectators.
I couldn’t help but make the comparison between UVM and Concordia, and while only 75 miles separate the two, they seemed light-years apart.
Our Stingers basketball teams play at Loyola gym, a place that, while cozy and full of history, is below the norm when it comes to interscholastic sports facilities, especially at the university level. I can safely, and sadly, say that I played high school basketball in gyms that were more efficient.
It’s clear that Stingers basketball won’t become a unifying rally point for the Montreal community, but why not for the Concordia community? Our men’s team is at the top of the Quebec conference, after all. And we do have shuttle buses at our disposal.
Is this lack of enthusiasm a Canada-wide problem? A Quebec problem? For both questions, the answer is no. The nearby Universit