Critically acclaimed veteran sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick takes readers courtside for one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history, the 1985 Villanova/Georgetown national championship showdown
A veteran Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Frank Fitzpatrick has long followed and covered Villanova basketball. In all that time, nothing compares with the Wildcats' legendary 1985 upset of Georgetown—a win so spectacular and unusually flawless that days after its conclusion, sports columnists were already calling it "The Perfect Game."
The game, particularly its second half, was so different from what observers expected—so different, in fact, from what anyone had ever seen that a shroud of myth almost immediately began to envelop it. Over the years, the game took on mythological proportions with heroes and villains, but with a darker, more complex subtext. In the midst of the sunny Reagan Administration, the game had been played out amid darker themes—race, death, and, though no one knew it at the time, drugs.
It was a night when the basketball world turned upside down. Villanova-Georgetown would be a perfect little microcosm of the 1980s. And it would be much more. Even now, a quarter-century later, the upset gives hope to sporting Davids everywhere. At the start of every NCAA Tournament, it is recalled as an exemplar of March's madness. Whenever sport's all-time upsets are ranked, it is high on those lists, along with hockey's Miracle on Ice. Now, through interviews with the players and coaches, through the work of sociologists and cultural critics, through the eyes of those who witnessed the game, Fitzpatrick brings to life the events of and surrounding that fateful night.
The Villanova Wildcats' victory over the Georgetown Hoyas in the 1985 NCAA men's basketball championship remains one of the greatest surprises in sports history. The Hoyas, ripe with an NBA-ready roster of talent, was practically guaranteed to win the title until Wildcats coach Rollie Massimino's defensive schemes and sizzling shooting rewrote the script. The improbability of the win masked uncomfortable racial dynamics. Georgetown's all-black squad, led by inscrutable African-American coach John Thompson, was all too easily cast as the heavy, with superstar center Patrick Ewing a frequent target of fan cruelty. Also, basketball, which was becoming increasingly popular, was about to get a major face-lift: the Hoyas-Wildcats game was the last one played without a shot clock, so teams could no longer employ 40 minutes of keep-away as a strategy. Veteran sportswriter Fitzpatrick (And the Walls Came Tumbling Down) is at his best weaving the stories of the two schools and their basketball personnel with these developments. Though he can't maintain the momentum the original reporting runs dry, giving way to play-by-play there's just enough insight to keep basketball-savvy readers engaged.