Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer
Caution: I’m about to make sense.
I have a confession to make. In the late winter and early spring of 2001, I drove around with two St. Joe’s stickers on my silver Jetta. One was a basketball sticker.
It was my senior year of high school and I had a partial scholarship to go to St. Joe’s. Since I hadn’t yet heard back from Villanova and my best friend was already committed to attend Hawk Hill, I enrolled at St. Joe’s. Sent a check and everything (well, my parents did). I was in. I was a Hawk. LET’S GO ST. JOE’S!*
And then I got in to Villanova. No scholarship. No housing. Commuter status. So I had a decision: go to St. Joe’s and live with my good friend, or go to Villanova, be put on a waiting list for housing, and cost my parents more money?
I managed to piss off both my friend and my parents with my decision. And myself. It took two and a half months before a dorm room opened up… at an auxiliary Villanova dorm at Harcum College two miles down Montgomery Ave.
But I stuck to my guns. I went to Villanova. The St. Joe’s stickers came off, the Villanova stickers went on. I bought a Villanova sweatshirt and a visor. I was a Main Line douchebag. But I didn’t hate St. Joe’s.
This is a big topic on the radio today– can you root for another Big 5 school if you went to a Big 5 school?
Yes, you can.
You see, there was nothing hypocritical or John Kerry about my sticker change. I had gone to Villanova games growing up, but spent much of high school rooting for St. Joe’s, when they were relatively good with Marvin O’Connor. I didn’t quite grasp the fact that my college decision would require me to hate the Hawks with every fiber of my being. I liked both schools. Temple, too. I was a sports fan from Delaware County.
Over time I grew to detest St. Joe’s, many of their fans and Phil Martelli. I still kind of think Phil is a jackass who is insanely butthurt that Villanova has stolen the spotlight that was available to him and his team after their run in 2004. But my Philly fandom has always trumped my Nova fandom. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’d consider Villanova my favorite sports team, but when it comes to choosing whether to root for or against St. Joe’s or Temple in a none-Nova matchup, I always choose to root for, without fail (though I sometimes revel in their misery… strictly for trash-talking purposes).
In 2004, I sat in an apartment at Villanova with said friend who went to (but didn’t quite make it through) St. Joe’s. We were under our chairs when Pat Carroll forgot to defend John Lucas’ three-pointer and Jameer Nelson’s turn-around jumper fell short. I felt the same gut-sickness I feel when every other Philly team fails. It wasn’t as strong as it usually is, but it was there. It was similar to how I felt when Smarty Jones lost the Triple Crown a few months later. All this after a two-year stretch during which St. Joe’s owned Nova and twice embarrassed them.
Around that time I remember calling in to WIP – I think it was Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow – and answering this very question. I explained that I was a 20-year-old from Springfield, Delaware County who went to Villanova but chose to root for St. Joe’s in the tournament. It was for the greater good. Maybe I was a little green at that point and not nearly as cynical as I am now, 10 years later, but I still have the same opinion. I will root as hard as I possibly can for Villanova to embarrass St. Joe’s if they play on Saturday. I will want them to destroy that stupid hawk. 104-64 would be a great score. But should St. Joe’s win? I’ll swallow my pride, hop on board and root for one of the teams I rooted for growing up in the Sweet 16 next week. The same way I rooted for La Salle last year.
And that’s why my Everyone Hates Villanova post last week was written with such hostility. Most fans and alumni of other Big 5 schools don’t feel the same way toward Villanova. Their misplaced anger has nothing to do with the current team. It has to do with the people who attend Nova, Rollie Massimino and the fact that Villanova is located on the Main Line, outside of the city. No one seems to hold this against the Union, however. Or Smarty Jones, for that matter. Nay. They hold it against Villanova despite the fact that the coach is incredibly likable and the team has been arguably the second most successful in Philly sports over the last 10 years. That’s the wrong choice. So let loose this month, Big Fivers. Root like hell for your team. And if they lose… then root for the other Philly team. There’s no harm in that.
*Writing that did cause me to gag, however.