In the five years that I’ve been writing about the Dayton Flyers and the larger landscape of college basketball, I’ve come to realize that recapping a collection of individual moments is not my goal as often as contextualizing the narrative under which they took place. This past year I talked about what success in Maui meant for the upcoming season, why the Colorado loss could come back to bite the Flyers later down the road (I was wrong lol) or hell, the Fordham article; which outlined the story behind why Fordham is in the Atlantic 10 and provided the context to conclude that it’s no longer the right place for them currently. I didn’t make an attempt to recreate a moment on paper, you already have those in your mind and no amount of words could amplify those memories, but instead, tried to properly convey what it meant in the bigger picture. To this day my most successful article on this site is the piece I wrote in 2017 after UD lost to Wichita State, in which I outlined why this was the end of a watershed era in the program’s history, and it was. This is an incredibly long way of saying that you will not likely remember any one moment of the 2020 TBT, but I can wager you will remember what it meant to us all to see a group of Flyers lace em up for a couple days in an empty arena in Columbus.
The NCAA Tournament and 2020 basketball season were canceled 122 days prior to the writing of this article, and a normal college basketball calendar would typically kick-off in the same 122 days from now. It feels redundant to outline that the same timeline this year is likely in jeopardy due to the current circumstances of the world, which left us glued to a television in July, watching a handful of former college stars compete for the opportunity to line their pockets with American dollars. So naturally the origin of my thought on the site today started with some variation of “Why did we care so much?” and rest assured, the collective fanbase (and myself included) cared way more than I even thought possible a month ago. If you didn’t care about the TBT and simply came here to read something about the Dayton Flyers, you can stick around too, no judgments.
I often tell people these days that this past season provided a fleeting example of just what is possible within the Dayton Flyers basketball program, both on the court and off. I fielded countless stories from alumni of reconnecting with old friends, starting new group text threads, or having get togethers with friends that were only possible because of the shared interest in the Dayton Flyers, and the remarkable success they were seeing on the national level. Those who had a waning interest in college hoops were suddenly coming out of the woodwork to tell anyone who would listen “Hey! That’s MY school!”. As a person who devotes much of my attention to this program, year-in and year-out, I found it both endearing and validating that, finally, others outside the diehard bubble were buying into what basketball means to the school, the alumni, and the community as a whole.
With that in mind, I have long struggled to nail down exactly why basketball means so much to our community because I am often afraid I won’t like the answer. Regardless, it feels tangible, like there’s something I could point to and say “Do you see now that people love the Flyers?” but the reality is that the message often gets tossed aside into a bucket of indistinguishable fandom that every fan of every team claims to possess. However, this season (and more specifically this past week) reaffirmed what we already knew: if there are Dayton Flyers lacing them up somewhere, the community will be paying attention no matter how little is truly at stake.
So that’s precisely what we did from the first game on July 8th, until the final dagger sent Red Scare home on Sunday the 12th. Twitter was on fire in the same manner I remember from February. I was tweeting goofy pictures of Chip Mikesell, remembering every ill-advised three taken from DURRELL and recalling just how hard Kyle Davis competes every time he touches the floor. All the little things that have now become the fabric of our program were on display for just three short days, and for a fanbase that really needed it, I am certain it took you back a few months to a simpler time when our biggest concern was what Obi dunk was going to be featured on nightly SportsCenter.
Not for a single second am I insinuating that this tournament “meant more” to UD fans, and I’m definitely not going to feed you a load of bullshit about how it filled the void that was created on March 13th, 2020 when the season was canceled. The asterisk will unfortunately always be next to the 2020 Dayton Flyers, whether you have come to terms with it or not, and properly accepting the outcome will always be a burden on a fanbase that was so desperate for it to be their time.
So instead for me, watching the TBT reignited a hope that eventually, we’ll get back to what our normal is – even if yours isn’t obsessing over the on-court play of the Dayton Flyers. It reminded me what a galvanizing force the basketball team is in Dayton for a community that is divided on plenty of other issues. It reminded me of the importance of taking 2 hours, twice a week, to watch some college guys play hoops, because once they graduate…those guys are a part of the same community I speak of, and carry that responsibility with as much reverence as I do. Countless times over the past week I heard the team say “We’re playing for Dayton, we’re playing for our fans” and nothing could be closer to the truth. This ideal may not exactly set us apart from every other big program in college basketball, but we can hold it tightly for all the same reasons. I don’t believe that every American citizen desperately needed a distraction from the current every day life, but wasn’t it nice to have one anyways? Wasn’t it great to FEEL something for a few hours every other day for a week? Did you forget, even for a moment, what was going on around you during the game on Friday? And then on Sunday too? That’s what Dayton Basketball does for you, even if you’re too proud to admit it out loud.
The TBT didn’t put a trophy in the Frericks Center, it didn’t give us a reason to fight traffic on Edwin C Moses Blvd, or end with a win. You can’t check the standings today to debate about where the team goes from here and nowhere on the jersey did the name say “Dayton”. But while the past week didn’t provide us with all the familiar things that come along with UD Basketball, it did give us a reason to come together and watch the thing that will always wholly unite us all, and that’s just enough for now.