I hate to say it, but I saw this coming.
As a student-journalist, I’m bound to want to root for our very own Binghamton Bearcats. And there’s no denying it. I do.
But I do it internally, because yelling in the press box at the Bearcats Sports Complex isn’t exactly professional.
When you cover a team, it’s your job to know everything about it. Or at least that’s how I go about it. But sometimes when a large part of your life is taken over by covering that team, you establish a connection.
When the team succeeds, you’re happy. When they fail, you’re let down.
And as a journalist, writing about a losing team becomes uninteresting. As a fan, it becomes disappointing. Overall, it just becomes downright frustrating.
Welcome to my fall semester.
Having covered the Binghamton men’s soccer team last year, I was ready for this season. I knew the coach. I knew who the stars were. I knew what they lost after last year, and I knew what they were bringing back.
So with that knowledge, I was optimistic about the team’s chances this year. Binghamton was predicted to finish fifth in the eight-team America East as it returned 12 letterwinners from last year’s squad and added 14 new faces.
But this year’s returners were ones who were sure to impress: guys like Ryan Walter, Adam Whitehead, Jake Keegan and Chris Hayen.
And out of the gate, the team stumbled a bit. Granted, the Bearcats played some tough opponents in the early goings, namely, ranked teams in The Ohio State University and West Virginia University.
In the season’s first handful of games, Binghamton was doing OK. Nothing special, but nothing terrible.
It seemed like forever before the team came home and played its first games at the Bearcats Sports Complex. In a perfect world, they would have won their first two at home and righted the wrongs heading into the meat of their schedule.
But they lost the first game.
And through 85 minutes of the second game, it looked like more of the same.
Walter scored the game-winner with three minutes left after the team struggled to create any scoring opportunities for most of the match.
It was after that lucky win that I wrote my first commentary of the year. In it, I talked about how the team needed to get its act together, and fast. Up to that point in the season, Keegan was the only consistent offensive threat for the Bearcats, as he’d netted four of the team’s 10 goals.
For me, that stat begged a question: what happens when defenses stop him like they’d seemingly begun to?
Binghamton head coach Paul Marco assured me that there were other players on the roster who could put the ball in the back of the net and that the team’s success didn’t rely on Keegan. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Marco is a smart man who knows his team well.
As both a fan and a journalist, I wanted to believe him, but his team’s play in its first two home games just didn’t allow for it.
I closed that column in Pipe Dream’s Sept. 20 issue by saying that, among other issues needing resolving, until players not named Keegan scored consistently I’d continue to wonder if Binghamton would be a force to be reckoned with when America East play rolled around.
Wouldn’t you know it, I’m a prophet.
The team never did get those contributions. And worse, opposing defenses found a way to stop Keegan.
Some say defense wins championships. Others say it’s offense.
One thing’s for sure: Binghamton’s offense for the remainder of the season was suspect at best. And for this year’s Bearcats, a serious lack of offensive production meant failure in conference play.
The team finished with one lousy America East win, which came on the final day of the season and was, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.
Binghamton missed the conference tournament for the first time since 2002 and finished dead last.
As a journalist, the story remained the same all season. The men’s soccer team couldn’t get goals when it needed them.
And as a fan, the 2011 season was a major disappointment. I had hoped, after last year’s successes during the regular season, I would at least get to see another conference tournament appearance in my final year covering the team.
It just wasn’t meant to be. It’s easy for me to be critical. I was the one behind a computer in a warm press box while Keegan, Walter and Marco were down on the field through the chills of October clawing for those ever-important goals.
Those goals just weren’t in the books for this year’s Bearcats.
And now, with the 2011 men’s soccer campaign complete, the fan turned journalist inside of me can at the very least take solace in one thing.
The only place to go is up.