“So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!”
Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)

Sometimes being the big baddie is the best. It’s my firm belief that a good antagonist is a necessary part of a good story. The adversary, whether it be a person, place, entity, thing, or idea, pushes the journey along and acts as a motivation for all the parties involved.

At the college sports level, members of a program often refer to a season as a process. The coach, along with their student-athletes, navigate through the ebbs and flows, taking checkpoints at the beginning, middle and end of a various season.

With the 2018-19 season athletic season concluded at Iona College, we have turned the page to the new upcoming calendar year. Last season was filled with success in New Rochelle with five programs claiming the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships. With the 2019-20 chapter starting shortly, MAAC opponents in five different sports will be looking at Iona as the primary opposition.

This is where I put my unique twist on it. Brace yourself.

In my drives this weekend to and from various events, I began to day dream: What movie villains match up with Iona’s five MAAC Championship winning teams?

Through much deliberation and with some input for others, these are the best comparison’s I could come up with.

I should note that BY NO MEANS is this comparing the acts of the movie bad guys with those members of the various athletic teams. This is a comparison on the character’s trends, trademarks and other various traits that connect on a more meta-physical or figurative level.

Men’s Cross Country AKA Michael Myers

The Iona College men’s cross country team has won 28 (TWENTY-EIGHT!!!???) straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships. They are dominant in every sense of the word and on every level. What’s even more remarkable is that the Gaels are poised to continue the nation’s longest NCAA Division I conference championship streak for the foreseeable future.

In other words, the Gaels just won’t go away. They will not die.

They are the equivalent to Michael Myers.

There have been 11 movies in the horror movie franchise, beginning with John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic. In fact, there was a renewal for the love of the series with the recently released, and surprisingly well reviewed, 2018 rendition.

We all remember how the original Halloween ended with Myers mystically disappearing after having been shot multiple times and fallen off a balcony. When Dr. Loomis and Laurie look over the railing and fail to see the killer, the classic music ensues.

That theme song, one of the most iconic in movie history…that is what I imagine all MAAC opponents hear upon lining up for the takeoff of the annual league championship.

For some extra context about how dominant the Iona men’s cross country team has been, here are some fun facts about what was going on at the start of the program’s current prevailing streak.

1991

  • The USSR dissolved
  • Top Song: (Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Bryan Adams
  • Top Movies: Silence of the Lambs (Won the Big Five Academy Awards), Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  • Top TV Shows: 60 Minutes, Roseanne, Murphy Brown
  • People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive: Patrick Swayze
  • Time Magazine’s Man of the Year: Ted Turner

Women’s Cross Country AKA Jason Voorhees

Almost all of the arguments made about for the Iona men’s cross country team can be replicated here on the women’s side. The Gaels have won three straight MAAC championships and 13 out of the past 14 seasons. The only blimp on the radar was a second place finish in 2015.

For the same reasons of utter dominance, the female members of the Maroon & Gold cross country program are comparable to another classic slasher movie villain, Jason Voorhees.

First coming to prominence in 1980 in the original Friday the 13th, Voorhees has become a part of American cinema lexicon as an immortal movie baddie. While that first movie he was just a literal flash in the pond water at the very end, the slashing machete and ever melancholic walk is still well known.

Now why is the women’s cross country team Vorhees and the men’s team Myers? I have a stake in that decision. There are 12 movies in the Friday the 13th franchise, and there is one that just diverges soooooooo far from the path of the others that I care not to put in the same linage as the rest.

The fifth installment of the franchise is Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning. The attempt to reboot the franchise with a different killer, different setting and different tone. The entire production was riddled with massive problems, and the end result as not the desired one. Hence this movie is the same as Iona’s women’s team not claiming the top spot at MAACs in 2015. It was just one miscue that is not representative to the majority of their success.

Golf AKA Lex Luthor

The Iona College golf program captured its second straight MAAC title in 2019 and sixth in program history.

For this comparison, you have to know a little bit about the team itself. It’s the smallest team at Iona with eight student-athletes on last year’s roster. The Gaels are led by Sean Burke, who is not only the head coach of the program, but also serves as the Associate Athletic Director for Internal Affairs within the athletics department. He works on the finances, the paperwork and everything behind the scenes that makes the department wheel turn.

Lex Luthor is the appraisal here because like Mr. Burke, he has his hands in everything. Within the DC Comics universe, he is a man that works within the realms of business and world-domination. For our uses here, that’s the same as internal affairs and the golf course, though on a lower stress level for sure.

Another reason I think of Lex Luthor in conjunction with Iona golf is kind of an under appreciation for their craft. One time I asked Burke what’s the most underrated aspect of golf is and he answered athleticism. That’s not something people would expect. The similar unanticipated response comes when Luthor steps out and wears his high-tech battle suit, allowing him fight with Superman and the rest of the Justice League.

One other comparison I can infer between Iona Golf and Lex Luthor is the idea of corralling a group of various unique personalities. Burke has mastered his culture with the Iona program, blending all personalities that he has recruited to New Rochelle. I link it to Luthor having to lead the Legion of Doom, which for those who don’t know is a group of a dozen or so bad guys who are bent on taking back the world the Justice League made safe.

legion_of_doom-2-720x405.jpg

If I was really crazy and not already off on a tangent, I’d compare the golf student-athletes to members of the Legion of Doom…but that’s for another day.

Volleyball AKA Harley Quinn

This was the first one I thought of in my brainstorming exercise. It was almost too quick. I was nearly second guessing myself, but it’s just really perfect for me.

The Gaels captured their second MAAC Championship in program history last November. It was a banner year for the Maroon & Gold, finishing the season with a 20-8 record and a program-record 16 league wins in route to a third MAAC Regular Season Championship. They took home numerous awards at the end of the season, including the MAAC Player of the Year and Setter of the Year, individually.

However, the success of the season doesn’t factor majorly into my comparison. It’s more the personality and overwhelming positive demeanor of the team. The student-athletes were the most optimistic and enthusiastic team of any in New Rochelle. That’s what makes me think of Harley Quinn.

Whether it be in the recent attempt at a DC movie in Suicide Squad, the animated Batman series on television, or the action-packed full length animated movies, Harley Quinn is most known for one thing. Her patented swagger-filled, confidence-radiating, bubble-gum popping and bat-swinging walk.

That is how I pictured the Gaels walking into every match they played this past season. No matter what song was being played over the speakers, the Maroon & Gold were dancing onto the court and singing. There were laughs, smiles and visible cheer at every moment possible. I really think that the court could be lava, but the happiness of the ladies would allow them to float over the danger at all times.

Men’s Basketball AKA Frankenstein

Remember when the Iona men’s basketball was 7-15, 5-6 in the MAAC on February 8? The Gaels had just lost their second straight home game and fourth straight league game. The stories of the Maroon & Gold demise were rampant throughout the conference and local media. Everyone seemed to think there was no way that head coach Tim Cluess could turn the sinking ship around.

Also I should note, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Iona entered the 2018-19 season as the three-time defending MAAC Champions. The Gaels were already seen as the villain. They were enemy number one. The target on their back really could not have been bigger or brighter.

So with all the pressure on them of looming expectations and self-inflicted frustration, it seemed like the Gaels were dead in the water.

Then Sunday, Feb. 10 happened. The Maroon & Gold bested the Niagara Purple Eagles at home in come-from-behind fashion. From that point on, the Gaels found their stride. Iona won seven straight games and secured themselves the a MAAC Regular Season Championship. It took the number one seed into the MAAC Championship in Albany, NY and all things were beginning to look in the Maroon & Gold’s favor.

However, there were still some questions being asked. Can a seven-man rotation be enough to carry Iona to a fourth straight league title? This team had only two players with MAAC Championship experience, would that be enough? The Maroon & Gold weren’t the same run-and-gun team as in years past so would this new formula work?

Cue the MAAC Championship quarterfinals against Saint Peter’s. Iona led by as many as nine with 2:59 remaining in the second half but the Peacocks didn’t go away. They made four straight three-point field goals and forced the game to get within one with 35 seconds remaining.

The Gaels had possession up 72-71 with a chance to increase its lead. However, a contested E.J. Crawford runner fell into Peacock arms, leading to the breath-holding final moments. Saint Peter’s’ All-MAAC performer Davauhnte Turner earned a trip to the free throw line and had a chance to either tie the game or give the Peacocks the lead with 2.0 seconds on the clock. Fortunate for the Gaels, Turner missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity. Crawford pulled down the rebound, forcing a jump ball with the arrow fatefully pointing towards Iona’s favor.

Once that final buzzer sounded, every single Iona fan exhaled the longest breath possible. Conversely, every-single non-Gael fan closed their eyes, tilted their head back and muttered soliloquies of four-letter words that wouldn’t include in any letters home to their respective families.

And just like that…Iona’s championship pedigree and confidence…well

“It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s Alive! Alive! It’s Alive!”
Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1931)

The Gaels were dead and buried midway through the season. People doubted them, gave them no hope at all. To many, the Hynes Center aura and Maroon & Gold swagger was dead.

But not this year. Not in 2018-19. The Iona men’s basketball team sewed together a second half of the season with whatever it could muster and came away with a fourth straight MAAC Championship. The Gaels beat Siena on its home court in the semifinals and then cut down the nets with a 21-point win over MAAC rival Monmouth. The magic nearly continued into the NCAA Tournament with a phenomenal effort against top-seeded North Carolina.

Dr. Frankenstein and Tim Cluess. One in the same. Bringing life to something that seemed lifeless.

Mary Shelley was one heck of a writer, but I don’t know if she could have penned a better return-from-the-dead story as the 2018-19 Iona men’s basketball team.

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