Dear Bona Women’s Basketball

An open letter to St. Bonaventure women’s basketball:

I’ve been thinking about writing this for some time. It’s a tricky proposition, you see. I’m not just a sportswriter in this instance. I’m an alum, and not just of Bona’s old St. Bona’s, but of the women’s basketball program. I never played (with the exception of being an excellent rebounder during shooting drills) but I was a manager. For four years. I saw the inside of a college basketball program, of a women’s college program to be more precise. I knew all the good laundromats in the old Atlantic 10 and could run most scoreboards in gyms across the Northeast. Some of my favorite college memories, heck some of my favorite life memories, involve my time with the women’s basketball team.

As a sportswriter who covers women’s basketball in Western New York, my charge is to be fair. I don’t root for teams to succeed or fail. Frankly, I root for myself. If that sounds self-centered to you, I understand. But trust me, over the years I’ve learned if I don’t cheer for myself, no one else will. I root for a good story. And the Bonnies are a good story.

But there’s something else going on for me. I thought about my decade’s worth of writing about women’s basketball. I thought about the last time a women’s basketball team went to the NCAA tournament from Western New York — Canisius in 2005. I can’t count the number of emails I got from readers who didn’t like women’s basketball and who told me, vehemently and frequently, about their dislike not only of women’s basketball but of the fact that women’s basketball stories appeared in their morning sports section. Readers would quote the attendance at games, which often hovered around the 250 mark, and rip my coverage.

To be honest, years of that attitude beat me up pretty bad. It’s demoralizing when your passion isn’t just misunderstood but ignored and ridiculed. I wondered if what I did mattered, if I was making any contribution to the world. Then, St. Bonaventure started to get good. They won games.They played for each other. They didn’t care if there were 40 people in the gym, 400 or 4,000. They  had a passion for basketball. They were fun to watch. And I started to feel engaged again. I started to remember that being true to myself had nothing to do with how many people celebrated with me, only that I did my best with my passion every day.

The success of the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team doesn’t shock me, but the reaction of the public, well, that has me surprised. Casual sports fans in Western New York know that the team is doing well this year. Their national ranking made news on the local NPR station. The fact that I log onto Facebook and see post after post about the Bona women’s basketball team? I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

Part of me would like to think I had something small to do with that. I’d like to think that those years of writing good stories about women’s basketball when no one seemed to cared did something to help change the culture for these student-athletes. Maybe my work had no impact. Or maybe being true to myself, following my passion for good storytelling and women’s sports, made something a little easier for someone else.

Whatever happens this weekend at the A-10 Tournament, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team is a good story. One that I look forward to telling, not because I’m an alum, but because I’ve learned to root for myself and play to the best of my ability, every night, regardless of who is watching.

With much gratitude,

Amy

6 Comments on “Dear Bona Women’s Basketball

  1. As a fellow alum and former player of high school basketball, I agree. The women are a good story. And this story, your story, was great too. It reminds me that in the end it only matters what God thinks of me, and no one else.

    Best of luck ladies! And if you make it to the final I will be taking a two hour road trip to watch you play. It’s my birthday that day and I could think of no better way to spend it than watching the Bonnies go to tournament with a win!

  2. Thanks for a good read. Keep telling the good stories well.

  3. Good story Amy…not an Alum, but a townie that went into the military from 1981-2001, and never returned to live in Olean…wouldn’t mind going back to live there as I miss the Bonnies…BOTH TEAMS something bad…keep your passion and Let’s Go Bona’s

  4. Amy. This is why we do what we do. There are times when you only hear the negatives. But we keep doing the job because it has to be done. I can remember the first time you walked into a Big 30 football all-star meeting. Twenty guys were silenced until you unloaded an “F-sharp.” You may not think so, but every one of those old fossils knew at that very moment that you were somebody that deserves respect. I hope you have a great Philly trip capped off by an A-10 title for coach Crowley and the SBU women’s hoop program _ not this team, but the program. I look forward to reading your stories.

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