It can be easy for fans to overreact following a particularly devastating loss. The feelings of despair and rage only intensify when the heartbreak is compounded by more futility. Soon all of the emotions fester into downright madness. And thus the curse is born.
It is unfathomable that a team, consistently on the cusp of greatness, would fall short time after time. Probability says that if the talent is there, and the opportunities present, eventually lady luck will work its magic. Impatient fans put their blame on the sports gods or some other intangible scapegoat, like fate. Not everyone will go the curse route, but for those who witnessed the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team once again leave a high-profile game unsuccessful Friday night, it is easy for them to draw comparisons between the Boston Red Sox and their beloved, but oh so frustrating Rams.
The relationship between the Rams and their fans has reached a toxic level. The crowd buys into the hype, which admittedly is warranted, until some sudden sloppy sequence of events deafens the Ryan Center as people pour out of the doors heads in hand. The product is good, the best in almost 20 years, so people are not necessarily being suckered into some sort of blind faith.
URI is a veteran team, with lockdown defense and a young, respected head coach. They deserve the national attention. All signs pointed to this being the year that the team would finally realize its full potential, and taking the country by storm as the healthy, hungry and capable squad that the student body has been envisioning for the last few years. It was supposed to be the culmination of all of the struggles, injury and player development. Yet, after the University of Dayton’s late-game heroics on Friday night, which capped off maybe the NCAA’s best game of the year thus far, we are left with more struggle, uncertainty and a sense of panic.
It may seem like a stretch to attribute the team’s big-game pitfalls to some curse or an unfortunate destiny, but after looking into the anatomy of some of their defeats fans may find the notion less absurd than it appears. The most anticipated match-ups like Providence or Dayton, the games where fans wait in line an hour and a half before tip-off, play out like a pattern.
The Rams outplay their formidable opponents for the majority of the game, then succumb to a big run, but battle back, before missing a couple of crucial free throws, just like on Friday night, that almost always come back to haunt them on the next possession. The opponents usually place the dagger so precisely, and rather cruelly, that the Rams are often unable to get off one last good shot attempt. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Sure, missed free throws can be avoided as well as stagnancy on offense, but a sane person would presume that eventually the reap-what-you-sow thing would fizzle out. Other teams do not always capitalize on crunch-time mistakes, but against the Rams it seems like they always do. Like the Red Sox, when the Rams make a misstep they learn to painfully regret it.
While Boston’s 86-year drought might be a tad more excruciating to endure than the Rams’ three-year run of heartbreak, the similarities are there. Both teams succeed in suppressing the biggest threat in the game, but are later done in by one of the role players. Xeyrius Williams, the lead antagonist in the latest chapter of the URI-Dayton saga is their Aaron Boone or Bucky Dent. URI’s trend of going away from the paint late in games is their Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning (perhaps that one’s a little extreme). Perhaps worst of all, E.C. Matthews tearing his MCL in the first half of last season’s opening game is their Tony Conigliaro taking a ball in the eye to prematurely end his career. Matthews has returned and risen near the top of the Atlantic 10 scoring leaders, but his injury could have taken away the best chance for the Rams to burst through the bubble and onto the dancefloor. A quote from the sports movie Fever Pitch, perfectly sums up the Red Sox as well as the Rams. “They don’t just lose, they raise it to an art form.”
Any inkling of bad news balloons into cataclysmic devastation that has left a fan base permanently skittish, feelings that will hopefully dissolve far quicker than they did in Beantown. The overwhelming amount of drama, and subsequent agony undoubtedly takes a toll on all of Kingston, and most certainly the team, whose tendency to pick itself up and bounce back the next day can only go on for so long. And time is running out. The legacy of what should be considered one of Rhode Island’s all-time greatest teams, whether they make the NCAA Tournament or not, but instead they will be remembered for being the team that fell just short of climbing over the hump.
Perhaps it is just a horrible case of Déjà vu, and the Rams could put behind them the Williams three, or the Darrell Davis three, or the Jack Gibbs three, or the Ben Bentil last second tip-in. They are not dead yet. They can still harness the mojo they exercised against No. 18 Cincinnati back in November, and become A-10 champions, thus fulfilling their supposed destiny, and wiping away all of the memories that will easily be repressed if the school’s name is imprinted on the bracket in a few weeks. There has been enough adversity. It is time for the curse to end. It may be the only antidote for the gaping wounds of both the Rams and the Rhody Ruckus.