Most basketball fans understand March Madness. Sixty-eight teams from 31 conferences competing in 67 total games. It’s the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four and ultimately one National Champion.
To be a Bonnie means March Madness is a whole lot crazier this year. It’s 707 miles and nearly 12 hours of travel each way. It’s two days of skipped classes and $63 for a game ticket. It’s five people packed in a tiny car and eight into a low-rent hotel room and innumerable bank accounts drained, all for one game.
Many people probably think that is a little dramatic. But most people don’t know what it means to be a Bonnie.
For most basketball fans, St. Bonaventure is a Catholic university in Western New York. It’s a liberal arts school with around 2,000 students. It’s cold, snowy and in the middle of nowhere. It had a good basketball program in the ‘70s and a huge scandal in the 2000s. It’s a team that hasn’t done much in a while.
To be a Bonnie means St. Bonaventure is a place where we know everyone’s face and name, and usually a lot more than that. It’s long winters of trudging through slush rewarded with only a handful of days of campus-wide sun worship. It’s where alumni graduate but never stay away forever. It’s Reilly Center bleachers packed with chanting students whether we win or not. It’s views of the unspoiled Allegheny Mountains and big green lawns surrounding old brick buildings on a campus that we rarely leave. It’s a place so isolated that we’re stuck, but while we’re stuck we become obsessed.
So for most basketball fans, this game is a straightforward, first-round contest. It’s a 14th seed taking on a third seed. It’s a well-established Florida State, ranked 10th in the nation, versus a virtually forgotten, unranked and unexpected St. Bonaventure program. It’s ACC versus A-10, and Florida State is a safe bet for your bracket.
But to be a Bonnie means partaking in a mass migration to Nashville. It’s a Cinderella story of going from an NIT possibility to a NCAA automatic bid. It’s a reason for the community and university to rally and celebrate. It’s a chance to answer the “St. Bona-who?” we’ve been hearing for the past four years. It’s taking the pride we have for our favorite place and spreading it all the way from here to Tennessee. It’s an opportunity to prove small can be big. It’s a chance to show everyone what it means to be a Bonnie.
So 1,414 total miles to see our 14th-seeded underdog might not make sense to most people. But most people don’t know what it means to be a Bonnie, and that’s why we love it.