As I sit here, trying to forget what I witnessed this afternoon, I have decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s a long season and your team has only played 3 games. Besides, any team can have a bad day. A day when there seems to be a lid on the basket, the defense falters and the floor leadership fails. That’s OK. I’ve seen enough basketball over the years to understand the capriciousness and vagaries of the sport. Still, as this young season unfolds, I wish to tell you that I am disturbed. Not just because of the rising number in the loss column and the equally unsettling lack of overall team growth, but because from where I stand, the 2014 Quakers are not at all lacking in overall talent. Nor are they lacking in numbers, physical size or, now, even experience. What disturbs me the most is their lack of one essential quality all winning athletic programs seem to possess—their lack of moxie. Moxie. A New England Indian word which is defined as: courage and aggressiveness; nerve. Also, skill; know-how.
So then, where is the Quakers’ swagger? Where is their grit? Where is their…moxie? You know what I’m talking about because you displayed these attributes as well as anyone who ever put on a Penn uniform. I remember well how your Quaker teams, no matter how far behind you were on the scoreboard, simply refused to lose. Then, just to rub in it a little when you finally had your opponent by the throat, you’d showboat with a few behind-the-back passes. With the exception of one coach, all of the Penn teams since your playing days have had it. Just a few years ago, Zack Rosen had it. So then, where is this indispensable feature in your current charges?
Thanks to the Ivy Digital Network, I can now fill my nights with watching Penn’s competition as they too wind their way through the nascent non-conference hoops schedule. The early returns: Yale should have beaten Rutgers—but showed moxie. Brown should have beaten Providence—but also showed moxie. And Columbia, the butt of so many jokes by arrogant Penn fans over the years (as well as everyone else around The League), took #2 Michigan State, in East Lansing, to the wire –but showed incredible moxie. Kyle Smith’s Lions, although heavily outgunned by a national power, remained patient, poised, fearless, and stayed within themselves to the very end of the game. Even today in Cambridge, the 16-time and defending Ivy Champion Pennsylvania Football Team, revealed the heart of a true champion by coming back from a 38-0 pasting in the 3rd quarter, to nearly win the game in the final minutes. Alas, although they were only playing “for pride” with no shot at the Ivy Title, and eventually lost 38-30, they too displayed moxie in a defiant defeat. (In fact, it would have been the largest comeback in college football history.)
I know you are fond of saying there are “no moral victories”, but even you cannot deny that what the Lions, the Bears and the football team nearly accomplished is indeed truly inspiring. Penn State is not Kentucky, and neither is Temple for that matter. Both teams were imminently beatable. But if your team has to lose, I’d much rather see them go down in this bold and rebellious fashion, then the disjointed, disorganized, meek, and downright painful way they lost today.
The 2014 Quakers are still young and there are still many games to play before the Ivy schedule starts. I think there is still ample time to pull it all together.
Impart to these young men what evidently comes naturally to you and I’m sure the rest will follow. I do not pretend to know anything about coaching Division I basketball, but I do know that I, for one, believe in you. I always have.
P.S. Loved what you wore today.
Stay Red and Blue,