Sports | Sports Columns

YOUNG: From the Super Bowl to Ivy hoops, sports enthrall and excite

  • Finn Mundinger / Staff Photographer
    Making a Run | With conference play in full swing, keep your eye on junior guard Isaac Cohen and the men’s basketball team to light up Levien.

Sports thrive because of their ability to make you feel, well, just about anything. Super Bowl XLIX had it all.

It had an inexplicable scandal and two truly elite teams. It had the comeback, the surreal catch, the decision, the undrafted rookie stealing the spotlight from an even more unheralded wide receiver (who worked at Foot Locker a year ago), and even dancing sharks.

There’s a reason that by halftime the American public had become absorbed in the action and had temporarily abandoned all talk of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and domestic violence. Nothing else is compelling enough to attract an audience of more than 114.5 million people in America. This is why there is no equivalent to the World Cup. Nothing can unite, inspire, thrill, or devastate more than the unscripted live drama of sports.

And this goes for all sports—including the ones at Ivy League universities in New York City—which makes them fun to write about and discuss. To that end, I admit that I do not have any well-informed opinions about Peter Pilling, Columbia’s new athletic director. He said the right things, and clearly, his main priority must be rebuilding the football program. If the Super Bowl is any confirmation, football—even in Morningside Heights—can be really fun!

The other irresistible thing about sports is that even in the face of constant anguish, there is always hope—especially with change.

Nonetheless, adversity—or dare I say agony—seems to bubble to the surface every year for men’s basketball. Luck is a key element of sports at any level, and one that has eluded the Light Blue. Without the injured pair of forward Alex Rosenberg and junior guard Grant Mullins, the Lions have limited scoring options, which cost them during the Cornell games. And getting to the free-throw line—one of Rosenberg’s best attributes—proved challenging  for the Lions in their narrow loss to the first-place Bulldogs last Friday.

Columbia stayed in the game thanks to its terrific three-point shooting, but simply couldn’t handle Bulldogs forward Justin Sears, the Ivy League’s best player. Yale also played remarkably calmly under pressure, committing only three turnovers.

Junior guard Maodo Lo’s game-changing ability finally returned this weekend. He nailed his first five shots from beyond the arc, yet it’s his last one—the potential game-tying shot which Sears partially blocked—that will be etched into our brains. I am not going to say that Columbia fans can empathize with Seahawks fans, but that final shot was not all that much prettier than Russell Wilson’s final pass. (By the way, Cory Osetkowski’s final inbound pass certainly was worse.)

However, after cruising past Brown, Columbia will have another Friday night showdown this week against Princeton. Kyle Castlin and Luke Petrasek will hope to duplicate their breakout performance against the Bears, and of course, almost any team can win on a given night in the Ivy League. Needless to say, there is still plenty of reason to be excited. I would even argue that Ivy League basketball is the best that sports has to offer on Friday nights in February. (And, having complained before, I want to commend the league on finally placing a consistent quasi-national spotlight on its Friday night games, despite an underwhelming TV deal this season.)

So, there’s no reason to forgo an opportunity to see this team at Levien Gymnasium before it hits the road for most of the rest of the season. After all, if we have learned anything this week—don’t pass (it up), period.

Ryan Young is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics-statistics. He is the sports director for WKCR. Roar Ryan Roar runs biweekly.

ryan.young@columbiaspectator.com | @RYoungNY

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