I was there when the season ended. In the United Center’s upper upper decks Thursday night, I sat sandwiched in between two flocks of Iowa late-20-somethings. The right one was led by a guy who wrote a book he didn’t seem comfortable talking about but he tried to anyway, and the left one was characterized mostly by one woman who seemed to be trying too hard to enjoy basketball, leaping from her seat on simple layups. I stayed still and alone with the same impatient-but-slightly-worried look on my face the whole time like a guy forced to use a payphone and he’s waiting for the old lady to pick up already.
It felt like an even game mostly because it was. Northwestern was five minutes late for game time as they have been in 8 of 9 games in this losing streak, falling immediately into an 0-11 hole. After Nikola Cerina of all people managed to put up a two, the game was even and would have been very exciting were it not for that initial kiss of death. I wonder what makes a team so psychologically unprepared for the first and last five minutes of each game but fully competent in the middle.
Bill Carmody was fired this morning, and I consider myself intellectually and emotionally unqualified to feel anything about the decision. Intellectually, because Carmody is the most successful Northwestern basketball coach ever and I am currently wearing flip flops and moose pajamas. Emotionally, because this nine-game losing streak turned one of the most fun things I’ve ever done–write a silly column about college basketball–into a depressing job. There was nothing to watch. Every game started and ended badly. Of course you can’t blame Carmody for the way the year’s gone, not when the team played the last third of its season without three planned starters, but who else can I reasonably hate? The trainers and med staff?
I felt ugly at the United Center. I wanted to disappear. It’s how you’d expect to feel as a fan of the worst Division I basketball program, I guess, but it was new to me. Before Thursday night I would always get angry when we were losing, loudly trying to earn the right calls or the right atmosphere to help the team win. For this game I was uniquely embarrassed and ready to see someone thrown under a bus. Hopefully I’ll be somewhere where I can see some or all of Crawford, Sina, Lumpkin, Cobb, Olah, Sobo, Kale, and Tre next year.