Thursday, August 18, 2011

Does Georgetown's Chinese Brawl Mean Anything For Their Season?

Yesterday's all-out brawl between the Georgetown Hoyas and the players for the Chinese Bayi Rockets is a pretty shocking story. Many teams go on these types of foreign trips every year, and I can't recall the last time any of them had any sort of problem at all. Georgetown wasn't even the only team playing in China at the time, as Duke is there as well.

Because this happened in China (which might as well be Mars as far as the American sports press corps is concerned) we haven't been inundated with too much sanctimonious moralizing, although you might want to avoid The Sports Reporters this weekend if either Mike Lupica or Mitch Albom are on the panel.

In general, as my regular readers know, I'm not the moralizing type. It's impossible to know exactly what's going on in any situation we're not directly a part of, and in this particular case all we have to go on is a blurry video that begins right as the incident begins. It appears as if the Georgetown players had been dealing with a very aggressive and dirty Chinese team, and refs that were continually punishing Hoyas players with unnecessary technical fouls. For all we know, every Georgetown player was just defending themselves.

Younger college basketball fans probably don't remember this, particularly since ESPN tried to convince us last year that college basketball was a pretentious game full of lilly-white prep school rule-followers until the Fab Five showed up, but Georgetown used to be the "bad boys" school. A large number of college basketball fans, particularly white fans, hated those old Georgetown teams that they viewed as dirty, uneducated and disrespectful of the game.

But those old feelings about Georgetown have long since passed. And John Thompson III has made Georgetown a class program since showing up, installing a selfless pseudo-Princeton offense. The team only succeeds when the players put their selfish needs aside and work together, often letting the defense dictate who will get the shooting opportunities.

And that's why, in the long run, this brawl could end up being good for Georgetown. The program is full of young players, having lost last year's trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Julian Vaughn (you can see my full preview of this team in my 2011-12 Big East preview). Chris Wright was a tremendous leader for the younger players, and without him the younger players need something to help them buy into the system. And it's hard to think of a better team bonding experience than fighting together, alone on the other side of the planet, against a bullying opponent and ref.

I doubt any tangible punishments or suspensions will come out of that fight. And if it really does turn into a powerful bonding experience, Georgetown players could end up pointing back to this fight as a big positive influence on their season.

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