People fall in love with teams for different reasons.
Sometimes it happens before you reach the age of awareness. By the time you can talk, you can recite the whole starting lineup, and by that point it’s so ingrained in your DNA that you can’t fathom a “before” time. You can’t fathom an “after” time either. It’s a part of who you are.
Sometimes you find a team because you switch cities, and it seems as good a way as any to make the new town into a hometown. Sometimes it’s the influence of a new group of friends or a new romantic partner, and before you know it, you’re rooting for a team you never cared about before, or even actively despised.
And sometimes it happens because you observe a team closely — not just physically, but as a storyteller. When you craft a narrative for that team in real time on the radio, then synthesize a more detailed one in print after the final buzzer, weekend after weekend after weekend, you find yourself attached to it in a way you can’t quite explain. It’s something different. It’s a new first love.
You become aware of all the little things about the team that escape the box score, the recaps, and the casual fans. You become unflinchingly convinced that Max Boursiquot should win CAA Defensive Player of the Year, even though the media and coaches leave him off the all-defensive team altogether. You’re only half-joking when you swear up and down on the radio that Shaq Walters, a 20-something percent three-point shooter, could be a viable threat from distance, then smile with satisfaction when he shoots 38 percent the next season. You understand that Donnell Gresham Jr.’s value comes not from his stats, but from his leadership, savvy, and impossibly steady hand directing an offense. You appreciate the way the basket apparatus shakes after Anthony Green throws down a monstrous alley-oop, and the way it keeps shaking as the Huskies set up on defense. You marvel at Jordan Roland hitting multiple threes with his non-dominant hand, but you know what the hosts on SportsCenter don’t — that his consistent, deadly left-hand floater game means he could hit that shot a third time.
You become intimately familiar — too familiar — with the conference they play in, and realize that it has no consistent internal logic, that predictions are guesswork, that the only point in forming expectations at all is to have them shattered. Like the universe, it is under no obligation to make sense to anyone. So when the team you love is pegged to finish seventh out of ten, trudges into conference play embattled by a non-conference schedule groaning under the weight of high-major schools, then wins its first seven conference games and ties for the regular season title, you’re enthralled, but by no means shocked. The conference is simply insane.
You see the team’s balanced offense, the endless string of all-conference first team guards, the bevy of valuable role players, the March Madness trip, the three straight CAA title game appearances — and yet the one that sticks in your head most is the time they took a helpless Holy Cross team behind the woodshed and made them wish they’d picked up a different sport as children. Maybe it’s because you spent the last few minutes of the first half involuntarily laughing into your headset as they built a 41-point lead.
For the last three and a half years, I’ve covered Northeastern men’s basketball for this station, first as a mostly lost sideline reporter, then as a slightly more comfortable color announcer, and finally as the lead play-by-play guy. That journey made me comfortable behind a microphone and confident telling a story. It confirmed that this is the line of work I want for myself, mostly because it seldom felt like work.
It also granted me access to a smaller, cozier fandom than most. Northeastern basketball, while reliably competitive in the CAA and occasionally a thorn in the side of a Power Five squad, is not world-famous, especially in a city where every college team is overshadowed by the perennial powerhouse that dons green in TD Garden. So the team’s dedicated fans can always identify with each other in a niche, specific way.
And that’s why, after spending my entire life as a Lakers fan and two-thirds of it as a Dodgers fan, the Northeastern Huskies men’s basketball team occupies a space in my heart that no other team does. It’s intimate and up close and personal. It’s a story waiting to be told.