Tonight … for all the marbles…

Last night, I thought the Patroons would finish their business and claim the playoff series against the Ohio Bootleggers, and eventually move to the NAPB finals.

Unfortunately, the Bootleggers came back and took Game 2 of the best-of-three matchup.  The final game – the “steel cage match,” if you will – happens tonight at the Washington Avenue Armory at 7:00 p.m.

And I just want to take a moment here.  It’s a bit of a reflection, if you will.

I want to address something that’s very important.  It’s why I’ve developed a very strong affinity to this franchise.

It’s because, for me, it really is my hometown squad.  It represents Albany – not just the city name, not just the geographic area,  not just that.  It represents the culture and range of our great Capital City … the people who live and work in it, the people who call this area of New York home and are proud to do so.

This isn’t a team that’s operated by a major league sports tenant as their minor league farm club.  It’s not some team in a sport that isn’t always on the public periphery.

Right down to the team’s name.  Dutch landowners who were the first residents and property owners in our area.  Those were the “patroons” of old.

And we play in a building – the Washington Avenue Armory – that is as old as the sport of basketball itself.  Siena College won the 1949 National Catholic Invitational Tournament within these very walls, the college’s first national championship.  Thirty years before that, the Albany Senators professional basketball team – who can boast of TWO National Basketball Hall of Famers on their roster, Barney Sedran and Marty Friedman – won championships in the New York State League, at that time a top-tier professional circuit.

And yes, the first iteration of the Albany Patroons won CBA titles on the Armory floor in 1984 and in 1988.

And yes, the Albany Legends took the IBA trophy in 2010 by thumping Bellingham in the league finals.  Right here in the Armory.

The other thing about the Patroons and the fans who support them … this team is part of our culture.  Some of us went to college with Edwin Ubiles or EJ Gallup or Lloyd Johnson.  Some of uswent to high school with Saije Pryor or Jerel Scott.  Hell, we’re watching rising stars like Xavier Moon and Steven Cunningham explode before our eyes.  We know they won’t be here for long, but we know that their time in Albany will prepare them for the NBA or for overseas contracts.  Hell, look at Jamario Moon – the guy went from two years with the Patroons in 2005-07 to being LeBron James’ teammate.

This is who we are.

We’re the ones who build podcasts around our Patroons.  We’re the ones who post amazing photographs on our websites and on social media.  We’re the ones who sing “Go back to O-hi-o” to the tune of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” to give the opposition some serious guff.

We are united as fans.  We are united as supporters.

We are Albany Patroons fans, united and strong.

And we will put everything we have on the Washington Avenue Armory court tonight.  And we will do it again at our next game, whether it’s in the finals against Kansas City, whether it’s in the finals against Yakima, or whether it’s on Opening Night for the 2018-2019 season.

We’re not fans who think that our very existence depends on Phil Jackson walking into the Armory.  That happened in 1983.  That’s part of our history.  It builds upon our present.

Yes, Bill Musselman brought us a title in 1988.  And yes, George Karl led us to a 50-6 season with a 28-0 record at home back in 1990-91.  Again, those were part of our history.  They build upon our present as well.

What Phil Jackson and Bill Musselman and George Karl did was bring our Patroons game – a team of determination and grit and style – to the NBA.  They brought it there.  And so did Rick Carlisle and Scott Brooks and Terry Stotts and Sidney Lowe and Michael Curry and a whole host of other Patroons who became NBA head coaches.

This is who we are.  And this is who we will always be.

Patroons fans.  United around one team.  Around one brotherhood.  Around one idea and one concept.

Win for Albany.  Win for the 518.

Tonight is the final game of the first-round series.  Ohio may have claimed Game 2.

Let’s show them that they cannot have Game 3.

Gold and kelly green forever.

We are Albany.

And we are Patroons fans.

Straight up.