Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Madness.

March is overall a no-good, in-between month, constantly tittering between winter and spring. Back in the Northeast, March still clung pretty tightly on the winter side, but here in Oregon, we start having pleasantly blue sky sunny days back in February. Yet we also have a large amount of cloudy, rainy, very unpleasant days, as well as really cold nights. I currently have shoots of different flowers I planted last year popping out of the ground around our apartment - daffodils out front, hyacinths and tulips in the back - and from the moment I saw them I couldn't help myself from thinking "Hurrah! Spring!" and then the next morning we'll wake up with frost, sometimes a sprinkling of snow. We're sick of the cold, yet still too far away from really getting excited about any awesome summer plans. So what is there to fill in this anxious void? College basketball, of course.

Although I played some pretty mean field hockey back in my middle-and-high-school days, I used to be a pretty big Not a Sports Fan person. My real personality rested much more in my marching band, bad-poetry-writing geekdom. I then went to a college which, although they did have some sports team, prided itself on them being a joke, fairly or unfairly to the sports teams. Like, it was actually a selling point to a lot of students - "Man, thank God I don't have to deal with cheerleaders and jocks and can just concentrate on my short stories and films." A lot of students didn't know what our school mascot was, and the school bookstore sold shirts which said, "Emerson Football - Still Undefeated!" Being that we obviously didn't have a football team. And to give Emerson credit, those shirts were actually pretty funny.

But then I met Kathy, a lifelong college basketball fan from Chapel Hill, where being a college basketball fan is probably required from birth. The first season I watched with her, I spent more time watching her reactions, and becoming slightly worried/anxious whenever she would stand up/hit things/leave the room during bad times. But even by the end of that season - 2005, when UNC won the national championship - I was starting to get swept into it. (How could you not, when your team won the national championship?) This sentiment expanded a little more each season, until by this point, I am full blown in love with college basketball. My love affair has even branched out into me loving sports in general, even ones I used to profess to hate (baseball, football). The more I watch sports, the more good I see in them. They give a sense of local pride in a country where 'local' becomes less and less unique as every region becomes more homogenized to the next one. Living in Boston with the Red Sox taught me this. I didn't know two hoots about baseball when I moved there, but there was nothing like going out on our balcony when I lived downtown and hearing the whole city yelling after a Yankees defeat. I see Red Sox hats and shirts all the time now all the way out here, and every time I do, my heart swells a little for Boston. I used to think that people chitchatting with each other about sports or the weather was really lame and typical, but now I think, at least it gives people something to talk about at all.

Sports, the way I see it, are the same as movies, or books, or concerts - they give you a space to step away from your own life and your own stress for two halfs, or four quarters, or nine innings, and that is something that everyone needs. And so although I at least partly enjoy most all sports now, there is really nothing like college basketball. College anything is always the best, when it isn't about ridiculously paying contracts and lifestyles and all the other cynicism people have about it, but just about really loving a game. Basketball gives an opportunity for success to rich white kids (see: Duke) as much as it does to poor kids from the innercity (see: Hoop Dreams, my favorite documentary of all time). It is America's soccer: all you need is a ball, and a basket.

March Madness is pretty much a perfect thing to me. There is not a more triumphant feeling than when watching an underdog win an upset. I think anyone who hates sports has not really watched an exciting game to the finish and then seen the look of pure, absolute joy on the winners' faces, and also the look of pure, absolute heartache on the losers'. It doesn't matter who you are to be moved by that. Sports, really, are probably the one public sphere where it is acceptable to show raw, unabashed human emotion.

& I know this post was long, and probably too philosophical for a post on March Madness, so I'll just end with this:

Duke sucks.


  1. oh man, i heart the emerson football t-shirts. and i heart march madness, but i'm crying a little cause there's a chance UK won't be in it at all this year! sadness. 3 more games and they win the SEC and we'll be there! but on the other hand, morehead state is going to the tourney for the first time in 25 years and i hope they don't get matched up against someone like UNC because it'd be nice for them to have a chance.

    and yes, duke sucks.

  2. ps. i'm sure kathy will love to hear that the general manager where i work, is a huge UNC fan. in the heart of wildcat country. psh. he goes online to and comments on articles using the name "hansboroughfan11" or however you spell his name. lame.

  3. lol, love it sam! what are the thoughts on kentucky getting into the tournament at this point? 20 wins seems pretty good to me...

  4. the chances of UK going to the tourney are pretty bad right now. the cats won a lot, but unfortunately most of those were in the beginning of their season. they've lost a lot of their recent games (recent HOME games, even) and it looks really bad. they were only 8-8 in the SEC. not to mention that the SEC in general was pretty bad this year. but yea, everyone seems to think that they'll be in the NIT this year. wow. (who watches the NIT anyway?) i think the saddest part is that everyone wants to get rid of Gillispie so quickly. (uk fans will turn very quickly on someone when their team doesn't win). i guess we'll find out tomorrow!