I totally understand why Grady has a soft spot for Gonzaga. I, however, have no such thing. Not anymore.
The word "hate" was bandied about in the comments of the other post, and that's a pretty strong word. I don't think what I have is hatred, since I generally reserve that kind of language for Washington. But at the very least, what I do have is a strong distaste for Gonzaga -- both the players and the fans. It's unfortunate, because I feel like this could be a nice rivalry, full of respect and with each team's fans rooting for the the other from the second week of December on. But it can't be like that. Because Gonzaga brought all of what I'm about to write on itself.
I realize what I'm about to say includes some blanket generalizations that don't apply to everyone. But I've had enough negative experiences with Gonzaga over the last decade that I just can't view the Bulldogs as America's Team the way a lot of other people do.
I was at KeyArena in 1999 when Gonzaga upset Minnesota, and watched what happened to the Zags' fan base as they got excited about their team. I remember watching North Carolina fans -- who had just seen their team get ousted by Weber State and Harold "The Show" Arceneaux (!) -- sell off their tickets to droves of Bulldogs, who filled the building to the point that it became a de facto home game against Stanford. I cheered for Gonzaga just like everyone else in the building, and took great satisfaction in their win. (This was due in no small part to the fact that they were beating the Cardinal, their snotty little band and that stupid tree.)
It was pretty fun to be a part of, because it reminded me of when the Cougs went to the Rose Bowl in 1997. The pride, excitement and passion was cool to watch, because it was so darn new and fresh. I mean, before that point, I had absolutely no idea there were so many people out there with ties to Gonzaga.
Now? Ten tournament appearances later, it's no longer fresh. Pride has turned from "my school is great!" to "we're sooooooooo much better than you -- try to keep up, ok?" Gonzaga fans and players have morphed from "fun little story you can root for" to "cocky jerks I love to see lose."
I remember working on a story a few years ago and needing and interview with Adam Morrison. I got the run-around from the SID and never got a call from Morrison, who apparently was too busy during a summer in Spokane -- seriously, I was told that he was too busy ... during the summer ... in Spokane -- to make time for a magazine that wasn't big enough.
I got big-timed ... by GONZAGA.
(Let that sink in for a minute, then continue reading. I'll wait.)
Trust me when I tell you that while Mark Few would have preferred Micah Downs not say what he said last year, that's the feeling around the program. They truly do think of themselves up there as the premier basketball school in the state, which I would admire if it weren't so delusional.
Most of the fans aren't much better; they puff out their chest and tell anyone who will listen that they're an elite team. They act like it's their God-given right to be awesome, and anyone who suggests otherwise is the enemy. They're a lot like Ducks fans with their chip on their shoulder and their little-man's syndrome, which drives me absolutely batty. I kind of understand it out of a Pac-10 school, because they might actually get to that elite status someday.
But Gonzaga? I've got news for you: You are not big time.
You are not North Carolina, Kansas or Kentucky. You're a tiny little Jesuit school from Spokane, playing in the more or less inconsequential WCC. Yes, you are consistently ranked in the Top 25 (thanks to beating up on inferior competition) and spend lots of time on TV (not because the rest of the nation respects you, but because they still think you're cute), yet in the past seven NCAA Tournaments, you've advanced past the second round just once, including first-round losses the past two years. You might have a good team this year, but you are not UCLA, Florida or Duke, which actually competes for national championships after being ranked in the top 15. You are not even WSU, which in the past two years has three NCAA Tournament wins to your zero.
So, to all you Gonzaga fans out there, listen closely: You are not the best program in the state, and you never will be, even if you occasionally have a year like this one. You should thank God every day that Mark Few is so comfortable with settling for the hero worship that comes along with being a big fish in an incredibly small pond, because the moment he leaves, you'll be back to what you always were -- unimportant. I'd tell you to get over yourselves, but I know you won't, which is what makes me dislike you so very much. But I feel better saying it, so ...
Get over yourselves.
And Go Cougs. But more importantly ...
BEAT THE ZAGS!