Thanksgiving is probably the biggest holiday on the docket for the Banners on the Parkway family. All six brothers reunite at a large farmhouse east of Dayton, mass amounts of mashed potatoes are consumed, the same stories get told and retold in case anyone has forgotten since last year, and new girlfriends/wives meld into or try to stay under the swirling chaos of yelled threats and the general ruckus that six boys can inspire. Somewhere in the middle of that, our mother takes the time to get everyone settled into their accommodations and our dad tries to make a disapproving face at the occasional ribaldry, just in case Mom is looking. The tradition of the packed house and a 12 hour FIFA tournament makes Thanksgiving the biggest holiday on any of our calendars.
A frequent topic of discussion (that being the polite word for it) is basketball. From the moment the patriarch of our clan placed a full size basketball into my crib until now, basketball has been part of the stream upon which our family floats. Integral to that are the Xavier Musketeers. Despite our family hailing from northern Ohio, the Musketeers has been the collegiate team of choice since before any of us were born. Our dad's preference for the boys in blue over any other team coalesced into something more when Pete Gillen spurned offers from larger schools in order to honor his original contract.
Now, Xavier is a family tradition right along with lumpy mashed potatoes and picking out a Christmas tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. For the first time that I can remember, the traditions will cross paths this year, with Xavier tipping off at 2pm on Thanksgiving day. The odds of this game going into the pantheon with Lenny Brown's floater in the lane, BJ Raymond against West Virginia, or Jordan Crawford's long range three again K-State are pretty slim. Pacific isn't very good or very compelling. Now, though, there is a reason to avoid watching the Lions Detroit things all up on the best holiday of the year.
You see, one of Xavier's traditions is winning. Only three times since 1987 have the Musketeers failed to win at least 20 games. In the last 30 years, Xavier has gone dancing 22 times. The small school in Cincinnati that no one can pronounce correctly has become one of the most successful programs in the nation. This year was supposed to be different, though. Pundits predicted that XU would drop into the bottom half of a strengthened Atlantic 10 as the off-season from hell coughed up bad news every time it could.
But that hasn't happened yet. As you settle in for dessert (or maybe just thirds) a 3-0 team will tip off in Anaheim. By the time you are justifying a nap by using the word "tryptophan" for the only time this year, the Musketeers could very well be 4-0. Dee Davis has gone from being an undersized understudy to a guard clearly capable of running an offense in the most trying of conditions. Semaj Christon has flashed the skills that made him one of the mostly highly coveted recruits in his class. Heavens, even Jeff Robinson has been good. Xavier may not go 3-0 in Anaheim, the competition is top class, but even winning two games leaves the Musketeers looking far better than they did just a short month ago.
Off the court, things are on the upswing as well. Both Brandon Randolph and Kamall Richards have signed for the 2013 season, and Melvin Swift will join them in 2014. Myles Davis, Jalen Reynolds, Chris Cantino, and Matt Stainbrook are also all set to step in to a team that will lose only three players. The future now looks nearly as bright as the recent past did.
Hopefully this Thanksgiving will find you back home or wherever it is you go for family occasions. Enjoy the food, eat as much as you want (there's always Friday to run it off), and catch the late football game while in the last vestiges of a gluttony induced stupor. Best of all though, the long summer is over, college football is dragging to its end, and college basketball has begun again. Come two o'clock, Xavier will be taking on Pacific, and hopefully zipping 'em up will become a new holiday tradition.