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Another Terps men’s basketball season, another roller coaster ride

Maryland guard Aaron Wiggins, left, and forward Jalen Smith, right, defend against Fairfield guard Jesus Cruz, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in College Park.
Maryland guard Aaron Wiggins, left, and forward Jalen Smith, right, defend against Fairfield guard Jesus Cruz, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in College Park. (Nick Wass / AP)

Never ever do I throw my hat at the television or compulsively pull at a hangnail or raise my voice in anger as frequently as when I watch college basketball. This Dec. 19th game between the seventh ranked men’s team in the country, the University of Maryland Terrapins, and unranked Seton Hall Pirates may have been the worst in some time (“3 takeaways from No. 7 Maryland’s 52-48 loss at Seton Hall,” Dec. 20).

The struggling Terps played selfishly, erratically and, worst of all, without purpose. The home court Pirates meanwhile played not all that better. It was without a doubt, one of the poorest basketball games played, and yet the utter epitome of what amateur basketball can be described as. And what urges us to keep watching

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There is certainly something appealing about witnessing supreme athletes, at their peak physical conditions, play a game that exposes their emotional vulnerability. The same reason why most fans of this sport appreciate the game is the exact source of our frustration. Coupling that with high expectations results in the Neanderthal-like behavior that I mentioned earlier. And yet through it all, I still watch.

It takes me about 24 hours to be able to dive back into the publications covering the Terps, following a loss. It hurts to relive the memories that caused so much anger not more than a day prior. But it’s not so much because of what we did see, but more so of what we didn’t.

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The roller coaster of emotions is what carries us fans. It takes us from an “all is lost” feeling to a last minute game tying shot from The Gary Williams logo on the Comcast Center court. That is the sport. We are watching kids. Kids who only recently went to their high school prom. Kids whose hormones are as high as their leaping ability. And kids when riding high, can play close to perfect basketball in a 10-0 run. And that is why we watch.

When seemingly everything goes right. When the lob passes find their to their alley-oop partner. When a heat check goes in for the sniper’s third three in a row. And when a breakaway steal leads to a 180 slam. For those few seconds, as fans, we come as close to touching what it felt to be that invincible. No, most of us can not jump up to, let alone dunk on a regulation hoop. But if we are lucky, we know for a moment what it felt to be free of stress, of care and of concern for anything as ephemeral as the present — just like the kids. Just like the Terps or the Pirates, the Spartans, the Blue Devils and anyone else on a college basketball roster. And that is why I watch because when it’s good, it is really good.

This most recent debacle in New Jersey by the beloved Terps will not deter me from watching the next game (I already have it set to record on my DVR). But after every game, I always say to myself, “I’m not gonna get as emotional next game.” And that couldn’t be further from what I want.

Max Fineblum, Baltimore

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