March 6, 2008

Basketball success ruins Chicago cliché

It’s years like this that ruin things for the majority of the University of the Chicago student body.

I’ll preface this by saying that Chicago has to be one of the only places on the face of this planet that takes pride in its monotony.

Last year around this time, as I was weighing my options for higher education, I was a little bit concerned about Chicago. I had heard that there had once been a T-shirt that said, “The University of Chicago: Where fun comes to die.”

When I got here, I found that not only had there once been such a T-shirt, kids actually wear the shirt all the time. They wear that to go along with their “University of Chicago: If it were easy, it would be your mom” and the University-in-the-form-of-a-dinosaur-is-crushing-my-soul shirts. And who could forget the shirts that allow students to compare themselves to squirrels in terms of interaction with the opposite gender?

Let’s face it. We go to a school that prides itself on being awkward. We have awkward conversations, we go to awkward parties, and we like awkward things. There is really no other way to put it.

An awkward athletics department would flow naturally from the reputation of this school.

A friend might ask, “Did you go to any good parties this weekend?”

The quick answer would be, “I go to the University of Chicago, what do you think?”

Or maybe the conversation could start, “Have you hooked up with any hot girls over there?”

“No, it’s the University of Chicago.” (Hence, the squirrel T-shirts.)

So, another logical question might be, “Hey, our school played you guys in basketball last weekend. Did you go?”

And another logical answer would be, “Come on. I go to the University of Chicago.”

That’s where this year comes in and ruins everything.

Both of our basketball teams had to go out and win both UAA titles this weekend. And they couldn’t just eke out wins; they had to do it in a convincing fashion.

Gosh darn it. I don’t know what they were thinking.

I don’t know what fourth-year forward Nate Hainje was thinking when he hit that three with 49 seconds left to put Chicago up by four. I don’t know what third-year forward Adam Machones was thinking when he scored 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

And shame on you, fourth-year guard Nofi Mojidi. What’s with the 25 points against the winners of 10 consecutive UAA championships?

Second-year forward Anna Woods, could you stop it? I mean, honestly, 13 points and 12 rebounds in the biggest game of the season?

I suppose the lesson here is that while the “It’s the University of Chicago” answer works for basically every social situation you can think of, it doesn’t work at all for sports.

The school that loves being awkward and uncomfortable and difficult and depressing and boring and physically straining in the winter and mentally straining all of the time and generally not fun turns out to be really good at the best sport on the planet.

Face it, Chicago, our basketball teams are good. Not only that, they’re fun to watch.

I don’t know if there’s anything better than when Woods delivers a brain-exploding rejection. Or when the men’s team starts raining threes upon helpless opponents, as it has been prone to do this season.

Third-year guard Matt Corning dunked the ball, for goodness sake. With authority.

As the team heads into the NCAA tournament this weekend, I hope that the conversations start to go a little bit differently.

Sure, the first two answers might remain the same as they were before.

But when friends from back home ask, “Have you been going to any games recently?” the answer should be easy.

“Come on. I go to the University of Chicago. I’ve been to every game.”