Division III love

Took my 6-year-old son to the Eastern University-Manhattanville College men’s basketball game today.

The details:

Admission for two: $0.00

Seat location: Front row, near center court.

Final score: Eastern 83, Manhattanville 63.

Time had: Fantastic.

I know … I know—I’m walking into the ultimate cliche: Sports writer dad takes his son to a Division III hoops game in a crappy little gym (indeed, Manhattanville’s Kennedy Gymnasium defines crappy) and rediscovers his love for athletics. Well, uh, yeah. I did take my son to a DIII game in a crappy little gym. And, yes, I was reminded why I dig sports. But, really, it’s more than that.

I often think about spoiling my kids with a Knicks or Nets game. Then I look at the prices (even the cheapest seats) and think, “Well … ahem … well … maybe next season …” It’s not merely the $60 tickets. It’s the $30 parking, the $8 sodas, the $4 snacks. The prices are, to go all Crazy Eddie on you, insane—and unjustifiable. Is Manhattanville star Jack Bramswig Carmelo Anthony? Eh, no. Is Eastern’s Anthony Parenti Deron Williams? Far from it. But, when it comes to sports, everything is relative. When elite players play elite players, the sorta-elite (Brian Scalabrine, Malik Rose, etc) look crappy. That’s why we boo them, even though—truth be told—the worst guy in the NBA is superior to 99.99999 percent of us.

Manhattanville-Eastern was far from a thing of beauty. The Valiants probably had the best three players on the court (Bramswig and guards Colin Campbell and Anthony Maestre, but the team rebounded like crap, missed 801 different open shots and committed some Pearlman-esque turnovers. Eastern, meanwhile, played hard. They’re a bad Division III team (five wins don’t lie), but a scrappy one. Throughout the game I was sitting alongside the parents of Anthony Bertolino, a senior guard from Glenolden, Pa. The couple had driven 3 1/2 hours to watch their kid (they knew they’d done something wrong when they found themselves passing Yankee Stadium), which spoke to me in myriad ways: A. I recall my folks driving four hours to watch me run cross country when I was at Delaware; B. They devoted that time/mileage to catching two bad teams in a bad gym on a frigid-ass day far away from home. That’s love; C. They seemed genuinely thrilled to be there.

As, again, was I. My son couldn’t have been any happier had we been at Madison Square Garden. The action was fast-paced, the six or seven obnoxious student fans were entertaining and the vending machine sold M&Ms for $1.25.

We’ll be back.