St. John’s University Basketball: More Than Just a Game

St. John’s University Basketball: More Than Just a Game

By Scott Gendal, YOUniversityTV – Sometimes sports are more than just a game. Sports unites us. Divides us. Entertains us, and occasionally enrages us.  I love nothing more than to spend a Saturday on my couch binge watching college basketball. But, since I was a baby, one particular team has been more then sport.  It is family, it is heritage, it is legacy, and tradition.

My grandfather was the first American born member of my family.  We are historically a family of Jewish immigrants who came here to escape the terror of World War II.  My grandfather was extraordinarily bright.  School came easy to him and when he graduated high school, he decided that he wanted to go to college, and one day, practice law.  The only problem was my family was composed of poor immigrants who earned just enough to feed their families and get by.  My great grandparents, great uncles and aunts saw the potential in my grandfather. They knew he could be the one to give future family members the opportunity to have a more prosperous life.  So, all the adults in my family took whatever extra money they had made and donated it in order for my grandfather to attend St. John’s University in Queens, New York.  My grandfather flourished there as an undergraduate, and went on law school at St. John’s where he graduated with honors.  My grandfather went on to become an immigration lawyer, providing the entrance to hundreds of Chinese men and woman into this country.

The tradition that remains with my family from my grandfather’s tenure at St. John’s is basketball.  My grandfather was passionate about every sport, but St. John’s basketball was his true passion.  My father tells stories of being inside Carnasecca Arena and sitting on the top bleachers with my grandfather. They were very close, and attended over 100 games together.  These are my father’s fondest memories.  

My grandfather died when my father was sixteen.  Naturally, my father was crushed.  But one tradition he kept alive was going to Carnasecca Arena to watch The Johnnies play basketball and pay homage to his beloved father.  

My earliest memories are sitting next to my father in Carnasecca Arena watching Chris Mullin can jumpers, Walter Berry grab rebounds, and Mark Jackson run the fast break.  I feel like I was born in Carnasecca Arena, and every time I go there I feel like my grandfather is right alongside me.  My father talks about him throughout the game and points to where they used to sit.  We watch the game, and no one is more engaged in the game then my father and I. St. John’s is not only a team, they’re my family’s team.  I love them so much it’s hard for me to watch a game, I get so nervous.

Last week St. John’s beat Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, a huge upset. Our biggest rival in the world’s famous arena.  My father stood in the middle of the living room hugging me, almost in tears.  It’s as if my grandfather was with us.  I could feel his presence.

Sometimes sports are more than just a game.  St. John’s basketball is more than a game to me.  It unites my family, and brings me closer to the grandfather I never met.


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