Chasing Immortality

Chasing Immortality

When the Flyers come calling for the Billikens in St. Louis tonight, the 57th meeting between the rivals, history will once again be on the line. If you follow college basketball, even from a distance, you are well aware that Ryan Archibald Miller has won six consecutive Arch-Baron Cups, an unprecedented run that has justly caught the nation’s attention. Archie Miller has a golden opportunity to rewrite the record book, as a win tonight would be his seventh straight victory over Dayton’s most hated adversary. Saint Louis is very bad, folks, ripe for the picking.

However, every silver cloud has a dark lining. When you break the mold, set the standard, reach heights never though possible, suitors with bags of cash come calling. It’s the unavoidable nature of the beast.

The coaching carousel has begun to spin and it’s only mid-February, the next two months are going to be entertaining for Dayton fans (I can’t fucking wait). Rumors, plane tracking, message boards filled with dime-store psychology – this is what it’s all about.

As events unfold over the coming weeks, you’ll notice that most fans will break down into three distinct camps:(1) The Flat-Earthers: these are the people who believe no coach would ever dare leave Dayton unless Kentucky, Duke, the Globetrotters or the Lakers came calling. These are somewhat rational people who simply put the UD program on too high of a pedestal. They fail to realize that what is built will eventually crumble. The Flat-Earthers concede Archie’s destiny lies in greener pastures, they just have an unrealistic, and somewhat unexamined, viewpoint on where those meadows are located. 

The Flat-Earthers are convinced that whomever coaches Dayton has no aspirations beyond being a mid-major coach stuck playing Fordham, Duquesne and La Salle for the rest of their life. Flat-Earthers will be the ones with all the inside info, think Swampy during the BG departure, reassuring everyone that everything is fine while they secretly picture the world burning around them.  These folks were branded during the Jim O’Brien era and they’re not going back to that, man!(2) The Scorned Girlfriends: the absolute worst part of any fan base. You’ll recognize their juvenile objections immediately:

• “Why would Archie leave for a job ‘worse’ than UD?”
• “Why leave for a place with such high expectations, all those people care about is winning!” (my personal favorite, it completely ignores that ALL high-level jobs come with increased standards).
• “Coach Miller is already making a lot of money at Dayton, he could literally name his price here, how could he leave for a slightly higher salary?”
• “It’s a football school.” (“Football schools” apparently don’t pay seven-figure salaries for basketball coaches)

These people are highly emotional and will turn on Miller as soon as he announces his departure (“I hope Archie never wins a game at State Tech University College”). Scorned Girlfriends are concerned that a breakup is a direct reflection on their self-worth, not realizing it’s just standard operating procedure. Coaches come, coaches go. It’s always, ALWAYS, just business. 

The Girlfriends have been burned before and they are not sure if they can go through another breakup again. (There is some slight overlap here with the Flat-Earthers — “If Dayton is good enough for me, why isn’t it good enough for Archie?”) They will never accept Archie leaving.(3) The Anti-Social Nihilists: simply accept that whatever will be will be. The Nihilists stipulate that Dayton is a mid-major program, an attractive stepping stone to higher-profile jobs.  What the Nihilists want more than anything is immediate closure, to rip the Band-Aid off and move on. They are the death-row inmate sitting in the electric chair — “Are you gonna flip the switch or am I gonna have to do it for ya?”

It’s not that the Nihilists don’t care about Archie leaving, they have the same concerns any normal UD fan or alum has, it’s just that they’ve seen this show before and the Nihilists have no interest in suspending disbelief. Archie, who is so stoic he probably couldn’t commit to telling his wife whether he would say yes during their marriage vows, has (and will remain) tight-lipped about the process. The Nihilists appreciate this approach, they realize it’s all in the game. Just get on with it already, pull the trigger.The best news, or worst depending on your mental state, is that we are just getting started. With NC State looking like a lock to open up, speculation surrounding Ohio State and a fog of uneasiness rollling out of Bloomington, Indiana, we will likely see Archie’s name passed around like a little boy in the Sandusky house (this joke became relevant again!). Throw in the possibility of some unforeseen job opening up and we will have ourselves quite the intriguing offseason.

Anyway, Backing the Pack, an NC State website, has a fairly insightful take on the Archie Miller situation from their point of view. It’s always nice to get a perspective from the other side, or just perspective period.

Believe nothing, believe everything. The real season is upon us.

What we know for sure is that this is the last Arch-Baron Cup for Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard, Kyle Davis and Charles Cooke. Will it be Archie’s final time facing off against SLU, will tonight be his defining moment? Some, not going to name names (Henry), have speculated that a seventh consecutive Cup would mean Archie has nothing left to accomplish in the Gem City, his legacy etched in stone. So many plotlines going into tonight’s game, the anticipation is killing you. I hope it’ll last.

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Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o’ D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.

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