Sports | Sports Columns

SIMMONS: Men’s basketball something to smile about

  • Youjin Jenny Jang / Senior Staff Photographer
    Lion Pride | Men’s basketball has validated those who believed in the program despite the fact that Columbia was picked to finish last.

I have no idea when, and I have no idea how, but at some point recently I became Mr. Positive.

Fortunately this doesn’t apply to every aspect of my life, because I can’t imagine being “happy” all the time. That would probably make things more insufferable than they already are. But man, does this new development ever manifest itself when it comes to sports.

The Browns fired their head coach, hired a new one, and then got rid of their front office? Fantastic—they’ve got Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer to lead the team now. Anthony Bennett is the worst first overall pick in the history of the NBA? No matter, it’s all about Kyrie Irving—he was MVP of the All-Star game a few weeks back. The Indians didn’t make any big moves after losing two-fifths of their rotation to free agency? Who cares—Danny Salazar and whoever ends up being the fifth starter will be better than Ubaldo Jiménez and Scott Kazmir anyway.

It’s sickening. How did I let this happen?

But you know what, there is one team I don’t feel confused about having a positive outlook toward, and that’s Columbia men’s basketball.

As the regular season winds down with just one more weekend to go, it’s hard for me to look back on this year’s team with anything but positivity. It’s still difficult for me to believe just how badly Harvard beat the brakes off of the Light Blue last Saturday, mainly because Columbia has shown it can go toe-to-toe with anyone. I mean, think about how different this season could have been if the Lions had gotten a few more baskets against Michigan State in November, or if the referees didn’t want to be a part of the story in the first matchup with Harvard

At this point I feel obligated to write what my 88-year-old grandfather always says when discussing sports hypotheticals: “If” don’t mean nothing. 

And sure, as basketball beat writer Madeleine Steinberg pointed out yesterday, the Lions have had a significant amount of trouble with their interior defense in league play. But let’s talk for a second about what they have done. They beat Princeton in New Jersey for the first time in over two decades. They’ve already clinched a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2009, and they already have the most wins overall since the 1969-70 team went 20-5. Junior forward Alex Rosenberg has blossomed into one of the best players in the conference, earning Ivy Player of the Week honors four times this season. And the Lions have been without two of their most important pieces—sophomore guard Grant Mullins and junior guard Steve Frankoski—for significant chunks of their schedule due to injury.

Even though I usually agree with my ever-wise grandpa, in this case I don’t. There’s a very real chance that those “what if” moments can turn into a net-positive. Maybe it’s just my new optimistic brain, but how can this season not leave you feeling good about next year, when those missed opportunities have a chance to be rectified? 

Think about it. First of all, this team doesn’t have any seniors, meaning—Lord willing and the creek don’t rise—next year’s Lions are going to look a lot like this year’s. To have a team that can really grow together for two years without losing a significant player to graduation is a pretty rare occurrence in this league and, in my opinion, only helps with development. 

So, yes, I know that I’m probably seeing things the way I want to see them when it comes to the Light Blue. But you know what­? I don’t care. This team has laughed in the face of the ridiculous last-place predictions, and netting two wins this weekend would be the icing on the cake.

If you’d like to join me in Mr. Positive land, I promise I’ll save you a piece.

Myles Simmons is a Columbia College senior majoring in American Studies. He is a former sports editor for Spectator. A Second Opinion runs biweekly.

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