Monday, November 16, 2009

Culture knock

Early this morning I'm reading up on the first local college hoops game of the year (Mercyhurst 98, Penn State-Greater Allegheny 64) when I nearly choked on my Bran Flakes. Here's what Bob Jarzomski's writeup said:
  • On one dunk, he (first-year Laker Christian Cornelius) drew a technical foul for hanging on the rim. "I was just trying to get the crowd into the game, to get them excited and let people know we have another good team in Erie besides Gannon," said the 6-foot 7-inch forward.
That is flawed thinking on so many levels. First, dunking on PS-GA ain't proving nothin' to nobody. The list of guys who've done that is longer than our local phone book. PS-GA is the team Gannon pummeled by 50 and 57 in consecutive years.

Second, do you think anyone in the crowd of 400 thought this when Cornelius was whistled for his T: "You know, in my mind the jury was out if Mercyhurst was good or not. But after seeing that guy hang on the rim, I now think they'll go 30-4 this year and host the regionals. You ready to go to the Cornerstone now?"

Most ludicrous of all is that Cornelius is thinking about Gannon already. It's only November 15th! The Knights and Lakers don't meet for nearly three months. Now, I'm not blaming the kid for what he said. John Wooden's motto was, "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." Apparently Mercyhurst's motto is, "Success is doing better than Gannon." Again, I'm not blaming Cornelius for this attitude; he's only been on campus for about three months after transferring from Division I Southern Illinois. So how did he pick up a Gannon obsession so quickly?

The "just better than Gannon" attitude has been perpetuated on the Hill for decades now. Two examples from way back:
  • When Andy Roth resigned as Mercyhurst women's soccer coach in 1989 after putting the Lakers on the national scene, one of his top accomplishments was "never losing to Gannon." At that time the Lady Knights were transitioning from a club team and were barely competitive with other scholarship schools.
  • I attended a Mercyhurst basketball banquet a few years ago -- who was watching the door that night? -- and immediately after the emcee announced the teams, he alerted everyone in attendance the date of the Gannon at Mercyhurst game. "Mark it on your calendar," he said. Implied was, "Overlook the first 20 games on your schedule."
I've written about this topic before in SportsLook (which I stopped publishing over a decade ago) but things still haven't changed. Mercyhurst has had some great people in its athletic department: John Leisering, Rick Gotkin, Karl Fogel, Bill Kalbaugh, Joe Jordano, Craig Rybczynski, Dave Cherico, Ed Hess, and Ray Yost to name just a few. But why is the culture on campus to be "just better than Gannon?"

Cornelius should be excited for his next game, battling for the PSAC playoffs, and maybe an NCAA berth. But instead someone's filled his head that a local rivalry is more important than true success.


  1. Speaking of MC, the preview feature on the Lakers in the ETN raised a few thoughts:
    1) quantity doesnt necessarily mean quality. having 18 average players won't make up for the lack of superb talent. Armstrong will be their best guy, and Nnadili and Englemann will be solid enough and one or two of the transfers won't be too bad. But even the healthy MC team last year didnt seem to put a scare into many schools that were not Penn State branch campuses. Its not like this group of 18 has any Kyle Goldcamps, Pierre Howards or Joe Lindsays. (granted its not clear what the Knights have, but I have more faith in Coach Reilly's recruiting after his job on the past two year's teams...)
    2) The lack of size of the Lakers. Iddo Cohen is the tallest at 6'9" but thats it. (True the Knights will be downsized this year without Kyle and Wilson...) But Cohen could barely hold his own inside last year, not very impressive at all.
    3) The Lakers must have to have the most unique collection of first names in the PSAC. Iddo. Nnamdi. Heiden. Stu.
    4) And to Jim's point: No matter what they do, MC will always be the jealous little sibling futility attempting to one up the older brother for attention. Manchel seems to be a driving force for hate of Gannon too, with his criticism of the Mosley signing and if I am correct criticism recently about the officiating at the Hammermill. He has had some talented enough teams lately but hasn't been able to mold them into a winner.

  2. SMS:

    I agree with you on points and disagree with some points. Unless things fall apart for MC quickly, Cornelius should be their best player. He proved himself at Southern Illinois to be a solid player. (transferred to MC because one of the players was a former roommate of this, atlthough I don't recall whom that person is). They look to have a solid 5 players and some depth. I can see them having a good year (hoping against it, but could see it).

    I agree Cohen has never shown anything in the middle, but with more experience you never know what could happen. If he's seasoned, he could become a strong inside force. Not saying he will be, but anything is possible.

    I'm anxious to see Gannon Saturday night, albeit against Urbana, but still anxious to see it. I'm also anxious to see MC and Boro play. Could make for a good season.

    Jim: What D1 school did IUP lose to in double overtime or something like that?! Someone mentioned this but I couldn't find it. They said it was a decent D1 school too?!

  3. The team IUP lost to in double overtime was Georgia Tech a fair program.

  4. Here are some interesting links related to the IUP/Ga. Tech OT game.

    Official story.

    This has a message board attached to it. The comment about Tech being 2-14 last year is classic!

    From the Indiana Gazette. Good luck following the 60-word sentence which comprises the second full paragraph. Other than that, the article is chock full of good quotes.

  5. Great post. How the heck would a kid coming from Carbondale, IL know anything about Gannon? Unless it was drilled into his head 24/7 since his arrival on East 38th Street?

    The 'Hurst's complete obsession with Gannon makes it all the more fun to watch their hearts get ripped out year after year when GU comes away with win after win at the MAC.

    Great call about Gannon women's soccer. They were dreadful in the 1980's. Actually, I believe that one year Gannon was 0-12-1, scoring just one goal all season (No, Eric Mangini wasn't the coach). Their only non-loss of the season ... a scoreless tie at the hands of Andy Roth's Lakers.

    One more example ... After Luke Ruppel's women's basketball team won a home game against a very average Gannon team in 1989, I was getting my coat on and watched in shock as they got out a ladder to ... you guess it ... CUT DOWN THE NETS.

    It's such an obsession over there that I wouldn't be surprised to see Rick Gotkin and Marc Sisti have "never lost to Gannon" on their resumes.

  6. By the way, the GU women's team looked quite good in a 28-point win over Ferris State in a game that wasn't even that close.

    And speaking of Mercyhurst, their women's team continued their second game of their 18-game preparation for the February 3 contest against Gannon with an 80-40 win over our beloved Salem International, who was coming off an 0-28 season.

  7. Two things

    1.). Hate to say it, but Jim I am REALLY looking forward to some input about Gannons home opener. VERY INTERESTED TO READ!!! :(

    2.) If this is a sign of what's to come, I think mercyhurst can start focusing on other "goals" now.