Former provost’s take on Columbia vs. Princeton
There was a special fan at Levien when the Columbia Lions struggled against Princeton on Friday night. Columbia College alum and former provost, Professor William Theodore de Bary is a 91-year-old expert in East Asian studies, but still has a passion for Columbia’s marquee sports. Here’s what he had to say about the game against the Tigers, and the Lions men’s basketball team.
What were your thoughts after the Princeton game?
I was sorry that we lost, but I don’t think it was a dead loss. There were nice things about it that made me glad to be there. First of all, there was a very good turnout—the stands were full. I haven’t been able to get to many games because I live in the country, but you couldn’t have gotten too many more people into the gym. That was definitely good, to have a strong show of support. I was very gratified to see the turnout.
Did the occasion have any special meaning for you?
I don’t think there are too many occasions during the academic year when you can have such a strong demonstration of community, spirit and support. There are probably a lot of things I can’t get to because of where I live, and I avoid driving after dark, but I was very glad that this one occasion conveyed to me the kind of community sport that I was familiar with much earlier in my student days and teaching early in my career. My memory goes back to football games from 1927—28, even before I was in the college, and of course I have a long memory of college sports and they usually have the effect of giving the students a strong sense of community that I haven’t seen lately, and the game against Princeton was very reassuring to me, and I hope we can build on that.
Is there something particular about basketball that makes you passionate about it?
The game has a sort of interest, that even if you’re behind, the ball changes hands frequently. It isn’t long for Columbia to get the ball back and as a supporter you have something to watch. Every alternation gives you a chance to hope for the best no matter what turns out at each opportunity. And that applies to whether the ball is in the hands of the Columbia team or the other team—the Columbia team is always in the game.
What are your first memories of Columbia basketball?
Well, my first memory of CU basketball is from 1937 … At the age of 91 my memory isn’t too clear but I do know I watched CU basketball games as a freshman, and when I started teaching I continued watching.
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