- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Craig Esherick, coach of the Georgetown basketball team, has come up against the need "to feed my family."
That makes 2 zillion of us, including the illegal immigrants in our midst.
We are a Big Gulp nation, after all.
"If I didn't have to feed my family, this [losing streak] would be funny," Esherick said after the Hoyas lost to Rutgers and slid to a 10-10 record.
It is funny how it works with bread and water, especially around a six-game losing streak and a Code Orange terror assessment.
The water should be bottled, the bread fresh, if possible.
The plastic sheeting on the windows and doors serves to preserve the air and muffle the whining, if necessary. The Hoyas are way ahead of the precautionary game, if the security measures at McDonough Arena are a guide.
These are peculiar times, and not just on the Hilltop, where the improbable national basketball power of the '70s and '80s is predisposed to be an elite university first and a college basketball entity second in the new millennium.
The two agendas are not necessarily mutually exclusive, just tricky, if Victor Page is in the house on academic faith and Kenny Brunner is waving a samurai sword. Even the feel-good bent of the Jesuits has ill-defined limits, starting on the fifth floor of Healy Hall.
The Hoyas are in the free fall mode, inevitable as that is, while the coach, student body, alumni and dwindling number of supporters are in the bruised ego mode.
The male ego, in particular, is delicate enough without having to contend with the immutable ramifications of Seton Hall's six-player concept. Feeding the ego is sometimes almost as important as feeding the body, although it was hardly possible to meet either need in front of Seton Hall's six players.
Can anyone count to six on Georgetown's bench, the players excluded in honor of Page?
Perhaps this merely reflects the difference between reinventing the wheel and reinventing the game. Many college basketball coaches pretend to be involved in the former, Seton Hall the embodiment of the latter.
The sympathy card has become habit-forming at Georgetown, as sympathy is defined down in sports.
As Esherick noted earlier in the season, crimes against nature are being perpetrated against Michael Sweetney on a routine basis, which has led to the suspicion that Sweetney will avail himself to the NBA's Witness Protection Program in June.
Being stuck on the end of an NBA bench is not the worst fate in life. You do eat well, and eating well is no small concern to either Esherick or Sweetney.
The disconnect between the Hoyas and the Big East becomes more pronounced with each season. The Big East is up to a trillion schools, some of them football schools, and it takes a protractor, slide rule and Doppler radar to comprehend all the vagaries of a basketball schedule divided into two divisions, multiplied by the luck of the draw, and carry the two crossed fingers.
See the problem?
At least two basketball teams in the Big East are still wrestling with the primitive aspect of six players vs. five, and who knows about all the rest? Who even knows the exact number of conference schools? If so, do you count Coastal Carolina as an honorary member of the Big East?
As it turns out, the Hoyas are one of the bubble teams, only their bubble concerns Madison Square Garden and the conference tournament. Even the Big East has standards, believe it or not. The Big East lets anyone join the conference. That does not mean it has to let the last two teams participate in the conference tournament, particularly if it has to come down to a food drive instead of a drive to the basket for one of the teams.
A canned good in lieu of a ticket is one option before Esherick and the Hoyas, assuming the security honchos do not open the canned good to see what is inside and the nutcases seeking to hook up with the 72 virgins in the afterlife have not unleashed a real horror on our city.
It is no fun losing, either to six players or five. It is no fun being Steve Lavin, either. He is prepared to hit the "exit door" at UCLA, if need be, as he made clear before dropping into Tony Cheng's neighborhood last weekend.
That is the stiff-upper-lip spirit. Lavin will be hired by another program after UCLA anyway, and just guessing, he will have no problem keeping his refrigerator stocked with life-sustaining substances.
It is food for thought.

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