Pushing through adversity

Steve Lavin probably wanted the NYC media to focus on the positives that could be taken away from his team’s loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome this past Sunday. He’d want journalists to concentrate on how the young Johnnies stuck with a top-10 team in a hostile environment for a decent portion of the game. Unfortunately for Lavin, and the program as a whole, the Johnnies’ upstate struggles weren’t the only major #stjbb storyline from Sunday.
Lavin’s father, Albert “Cap” Lavin, passed away this weekend at the age of 82. As any son would do, Lavin jumped aboard a plane to San Francisco to be with his family, while his players were left without their leader as they entered into battle with an opponent they hadn’t beaten in seven consecutive attempts.
As many pundits expected, the Johnnies fell to Syracuse, leaving Lavin without any bit of solace during his time of mourning – a time of mourning that may intertwine with the rest of the Johnnies’ season.

I’m in no position to predict or attempt to interpret how a man will react in light of his fathe’s death, but I think it’s important to note that adversity can bring people together. It makes people work harder, push that much further to reach a certain goal.

How fitting it is, then, that sports – being one of the most ideal platforms to pay tribute to a loved one – is a major facet of Lavin’s line of work. We hear stories about professional and amateur athletes alike who honor loved ones on the field, pitch, or court all the time.

Think of Brett Favre’s legendary Monday Night performance in Oakland after his father’s death, or Torrey Smith’s remarkable receiving exhibition against the Patriots this past September, hours after his 19-year old brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.

It’s impossible to pinpoint why, but there’s something about sports that brings out the best in people during the most trying moments.

I can’t guarantee that Lavin and his players will experience the same type of success that Favre or Smith did in the wake of their respective losses, but there’s an extra incentive for the Johnnies. There’s no doubt that they were motivated to reach the NCAA Tournament before this past weekend, but, in the wake of Cap Lavin’s death, their future successes, as well as failures, hold more weight.

I fully expect them to reach a gear in the next month that nobody expected to be in their arsenal – all fueled by the loss of their coach’s father.

Last season, the Johnnies did their best to salvage a season that only saw snippets of coach Lav on the sidelines. The year before that, Lavin and his army of seniors were thrust into their first NCAA Tournament game together without one of their most influential players, DJ Kennedy.

The next couple of weeks will be the first time during the Lavin era that both coach and players will unite during their clash with adversity. It’s not a circumstance that anyone involved could have anticipated, but this moment of sorrow has the ability to spark something special.