UMBC Athletics Can Celebrate Whatever They Want, However They Want

In today’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week media news cycle, there is obviously always a need for content to fill space, and one of the easiest ways to do that is with opinion. That’s one of the reasons that places like Fox Sports and ESPN have gone heavily into syndicated televised talk radio or debate shows in their daytime programming.

Most people have opinions about most things, and all you have to do in order to fill that content void is find enough people who are willing to share those opinions on air and then talk about/defend them until they’re blue in the face. I can appreciate that, I do it as well. At least a portion of the content that I produce for this website consists of me reading a story or someone’s opinion about a story and then expressing my own opinions on the matter.

This is all well and good, the issue I have is when we start discussing successes or failures of other people. It’s one thing to have an academic discussion about a sporting event and what did/did not go right that could/could not contribute to winning or losing. It’s something else entirely to have discussions about whether or not you agree with someone else’s definition of their own success.

See, way back when I was at Community College I had the good fortune to attend a leadership summit, and one of the people on the panel discussion at that summit was North Carolina State head basketball coach Herb Sendek (to give you an idea of time). Many people at that summit said things that resonated with me, but Herb was the one who said something that probably always will stick with me for the rest of my life.

He started off by saying that life is not about being successful – obviously he said this on purpose as a way of getting people’s attention, because the immediate response was “what? Please go on.”

The bigger point he was trying to make is that when you are judging whether you are successful or not, you’re almost always judging yourself using someone else’s standard. There are times in life (like academia) where the only standard you have that actually matters is someone else’s standard – the grade the teacher gives you or the score you get on the test.

Outside of that, he meant that you have to spend less time judging whether or not you were successful based on someone else’s standard and more time judging whether or not you are happy with what you have accomplished.

At this point you are of course wondering why I’ve brought this all up, and it’s because the University of Maryland Baltimore County Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have decided to hang a banner celebrating their NCAA tournament upset of the #1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers, and the response to this action has been mixed.

O.K., “mixed” is generous – they caught a lot of flak. To their credit, though, they handled it in a very medium-appropriate fashion.

A lot of this trash talk towards UMBC is of the vein of “how could you hang a banner when you didn’t win anything of significance?” This of course belies the fact that the Retrievers did something that literally no other men’s basketball team had ever done before in 135 attempts across men’s basketball history, and only one other team (men’s or women’s) has ever achieved.

Thus, the critics are saying that this lone victory – despite its substantial historical significance – is meaningless because it did not produce a championship of any sort. This is, of course, absurd. It’s also meaningless.

I personally would consider it a bit much if the UMBC athletics department hung a banner from the rafters of their gym celebrating a lone victory. It isn’t my decision, so it wouldn’t matter, but that’s also not what they did; they put up a graphic poster in the concourse celebrating a historic and memorable moment in their program’s history.

I am fully in the corner of celebrating an achievement; the UMBC Athletic program does not have a lengthy list of athletic achievements, so it is absolutely appropriate for them to celebrate this, whether it’s for now or until they achieve something they consider greater like a championship.

Most importantly, UMBC can celebrate whatever they want in whatever way they want to celebrate it. They have every right to decide what and how much meaning any event that they participated in has to them; we as outsiders have the right to make similar judgements, but they hold no weight.

What matters to UMBC is what value they place on their own achievements, and the benefit they perceive from advertising those achievements in a tasteful manner. Coach Odom has done great things with his basketball program, and a permanent reminder of the historical landmark he helped reach will go a long way towards bringing in the talent that will help proliferate that success.

Who are we to denigrate that achievement simply because it doesn’t meet our definition of success?

Whether or not the students and athletes that UMBC is trying to recruit see their achievements in the same light they do is its own discussion, and we have no impact on it. I’d wager that such marketing will bring in exactly what it is supposed to; a mix of students who find that achievement meaningful and those who don’t but who wouldn’t have considered UMBC as a destination without the exposure that moment created.

To put it simply, UMBC has done what they feel is right for them, and it will likely have exactly the effect they think it will have. I’m all in favor of this, but neither my opinion of their success nor any of the others out there have anywhere near the impact as their own level of happiness with their accomplishments.

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