I know what you’re thinking; this is a stunner.
It’s just stunning that Crossing Broad, a website started by a Villanova alumnus, would publish a pro-Villanova article.
But Kyle isn’t writing this story from an insider’s perspective. I’m writing it as an outsider whose team was booted from the NCAA Tournament by the Wildcats two weeks ago.
Common knowledge says I should be angry about that. Woe is me! I can’t cheer for Villanova since they dropped 13 three-pointers on us and finished the game on a 43-26 run. I have to hate the Wildcats, or whatever.
I don’t hate them, not one bit.
I like Nova. I was pulling for them to beat the brakes off of Texas Tech and Kansas, which they did. And I’ll be pulling for them against Michigan tonight, because there’s just nothing to dislike about Villanova. It’s a classy program run by a classy coach with a group of players that stay out of trouble and do things the right way.
When I worked at Eyewitness News, Selection Sunday was always a bear, just a tough day with a lot of work to do – a lot of highlights to edit, a lot of interviews to conduct, and a lot of graphics for the art department to build.
You’ve got coaches coming off of Saturday conference tournament games who sleep about four hours before joining their team on campus to watch the national broadcast and find out when and where they’re playing. Then, they do a BARRAGE of media with some folks on-site, and some folks off-site.
To that point, I can’t remember a time when Jay Wright ever said no to an interview. He would get back from the Big East tournament late on a Saturday night, do the selection thing with his team on Sunday, talk to reporters in person, then walk over to a separate room to do four separate interviews with Action News, NBC 10, FOX 29, and us. And it’s not like the television stations were major players in the sports market. We weren’t the Inquirer or Comcast SportsNet, and we didn’t cover Villanova the same way we covered the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers, but here’s Jay Wright, looking totally exhausted on more than one occasion, always willing to make time for Lesley Van Arsdall and our 11:35 p.m. sports special. It was never coach speak or cliches, either, he always acted like he gave a shit and took time to consider the questions we asked, questions he had probably answered 15 times already.
I can respect that, for sure. Here’s a guy who has always exuded class and been a fine ambassador for the region:
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) March 25, 2018
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) March 24, 2018
When it comes to blemishes on Wright and his program, there’s pretty much nothing out there. There was a phone card “scandal” way back in 2003 where a bunch of guys made calls using someone else’s telephone access code.
Nova was mentioned briefly in the big NCAA report from a few months back, with three former players alleged to have received loan payments after they left the program. From what I understand, it’s another “nothing burger,” as that guy on CNN once said.
That’s about it. I can’t find anything else, nor do I remember anything else they’ve done wrong.
Let’s take a look at recent rosters to see if we can find any Grayson Allen types:
- Jalen Brunson – nah
- Ryan Arcidiacono – nah
- Kyle Lowry – nah
- Randy Foye – nah
- Scottie Reynolds – nah
I think back to the last 10 or 15 years of Big East basketball and a lot of villains come to mind – Carl Krauser, Eric Devendorf, Herb Pope – the list goes on and on.
But not once during that time period did I really dislike anyone from Nova. Allan Ray? Mike Nardi? Dante Cunningham? Darrun Hilliard? I didn’t hate any of those guys, not nearly as much as whoever Pitt or UConn or Georgetown was rolling out. Every time you saw Villanova on the schedule it was like, “ah, these guys are good, they’re a pain in the ass,” but playing the Wildcats never brought forth the abhorrence I felt when going up against Rick Pitino or Jim Calhoun or DeJuan Blair.
Some people wanna point to Nova as being a snooty Main Line school with entitled undergrads or something, but is it even really that bad? Yea, tuition is $52,000, but Penn ain’t much different. Yea, some Villanova types are rich, boat-shoe wearing Avalon vacationers, but so what? There are plenty of places to find elitists in this area. Take a drive over to Society Hill or Moorestown or Alapocas and it’s the same thing. I’ve lived long enough to know that douchebags come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and comments sections.
Now, some people like to go down the road of, “well, Villanova isn’t in Philadelphia, so it’s not a Philadelphia school!”
Right, so let’s do some geography.
Using City Hall as a central location, Nova’s campus is about 13 to 14 miles from center city if you’re taking a straight-ish shot down Lancaster Avenue:
Yea, it’s outside the city limits, but it’s really not that far. Saint Joe’s and La Salle are six miles from City Hall, so we’re really going to split hairs over a difference of eight whole miles?
Plus, when you go down the list of professional and college sports teams, you find all sorts of similar geographic snafus:
- The New York Giants and New York Jets do not play in New York
- The Buffalo Bills don’t play in Buffalo
- The Washington Redskins don’t play in Washington
- The Philadelphia Union don’t play in Philadelphia
- The Dallas Cowboys don’t play in Dallas
- The Detroit Pistons don’t play in Detroit
And the San Francisco 49ers sure as hell don’t play in San Francisco:
If you want to be more technical about it, the United States government’s Office of Management and Budget divides the country into 382 metropolitan statistical areas, defined by “one or more adjacent counties or county equivalents that have at least one urban core area of at least 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.”
Philly-Camden-Wilmington is the 7th largest MSA in the United States and is known to us… uh… the Delaware Valley, a region extending from Elkton all the way up to the Trenton border. Villanova University, Talen Energy Stadium, the new Sixers Field House, and pretty much everything “Philly sports” related falls into that greater catchment area.
So, no, Villanova is not “in Philadelphia,” but there are plenty of Eagles fans from Norristown, Medford, and Hockessin. Are they not qualified to be Eagle fans? The whole thing is DUMB.
North Philly native Kyle Lowry agrees, and touches on the topic in a recent Players’ Tribune story:
“Loyalty is everything in Philadelphia. I’m always going to be proud to be a Philadelphia native. Fly Eagles Fly. Let’s go Phillies. Let’s go Flyers. The 76ers … I mean, I’m obviously not rooting for them. But the point still stands.
It’s a great feeling to be able to represent your college and your city in big games. It’s great to have been a part of a program that changed the culture of the entire university. We worked hard, and we earned our place among the NCAA’s elite a long time ago. We’re not letting go anytime soon.
Some people will just never accept it. Some people will keep telling you that even though the perception might have changed, the geography is always going to be the same.”
And even if you’re resigned to the idea that Nova is some elite Main Line school, look at the guys on their roster. You’ve got kids from Archbishop Wood, Salesianum, and Neumann-Goretti wearing the jersey. Mikal Bridges went to public school at Great Valley. The son of the 76ers President earned a roster spot as a walk-on. I can get behind that.
I would hope that other Philadelphia sports fans can cheer for those guys and those stories. And I’d hope that Villanova fans would reciprocate if the tables were turned. I’d hope Lamarr Kimble and Shizz Alston and Darnell Foreman would get some love from Wildcat nation if they were playing for a national title.
If you went to Temple or Saint Joe’s or whatever, I get it. I wouldn’t go gung-ho for the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, but I’d like to see West Virginia native John Holliday win it. For the same reason, I wouldn’t mind seeing Lowry win a ring with the Raptors.
And I’d prefer to see Villanova win it all tonight, again. I don’t think it matters if you went to Nova or didn’t go to Nova, or whether or not the school is in Philly or outside of Philly. I see an elite program with a classy coach and classy players who do things the right way and play lights-out basketball.
I find it hard to root against that.