Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh, the madness

E and I are in our TV room watching basketball.  This is a sentence I could have written just about any time in the month of March.  Any March, come to think of it.  Years ago there was a commercial on TV about "Bracket-ville", with Coach K, Dickie V, and a host of other hoop stars--both coaches and players--sitting on porches, strolling along sidewalks, etc, of an imaginary all-basketball-all-the-time place.  You know, Bracket-ville.  If you've ever been in our home in March, you've visited Bracketville. It's honestly like we've packed our belongings and moved to an alternate universe during these Ides of March when the sun might shine or the wind howl but we barely leave this room, let alone the house.  I exaggerate, of course.  Beve goes to work--though he'd rather not--and the mowing business has actually started for the season, but the main event always happening in gyms across the country, and we're careful not to miss. There have been years when Beve's felt a 'cold' coming on that first week of the NCAA tournament, and one year he even scheduled knee surgery so he was laid up (but not too out of it to watch) when more games are played in a single day than there are hours of daylight.

We know teams and coaches and players by name, and story-lines that pull on our heart-strings (whatever heart-strings actually are)--players whose mothers raised them, whose parents are dead, who have overcome immense odds to get where they are, towering over mere mortals on a basketball court.  There have been Cinderellas who became perennials--Gonzaga, to name one--and Davids who fell Goliaths--George Mason of 2006 making the final four was such a stone-heaving David.  We know the players so well by the time March finishes, we're on first name basis with a whole tourney of them:  This year's lot features Kemba (from U Conn) and The Jimmer (BYU) to name two of the more unique names, neither of whom need last names to identify them anymore. But though we've seen it all, the definite article before a college student's name is definitely new.

However, though I've thrived in my marriage in part because I love, rather than resent, Beve's love of hoops, some of these games-how can I say this diplomatically so that I can still live in this house-- become long, boring, and all look alike to me.  But you didn't hear me say it.  OK?  The thing is, I like to have a dog in the fight, if you understand that reference.  Game after game after game where I don't know anything about the programs or care who wins are a little too much up and down and shoot and swat and dribble and pass and shoot and foul and sweat and run for me.  And older men on the sidelines yelling at them like their lives depend on the outcomes of all this running and shooting and dribbling and sweating. And you know what? For some of those older men, their lives do depend on the outcomes--at least their professional lives do.

But, give me a team I care about, and I'm pretty much all in. All in so much that I can hardly stand it if the game is on the line and a couple of free throws--or even one!--can win it.  I pace, have to leave the room, peek out through my fingers around the corner because I am that kind of fan.  And the team I care most about has been known to "Coug" it more than once over the course of my life.  For the uninformed that verb means to find some way to lose a game, even when a win seems a sure thing.  Last night, though, in exactly this situation, even after NOT making the crucial free throws that would have put the game away in regulation, the Cougars of WSU managed to extend their season.  Sure, they aren't playing in the Big dance.  But they're still playing, and that means we're still cheering for them.

And that's what it's about.  Having a dog in the fight, right? Or perhaps it might be better to say having a God in the fight.  A God whose name definitely has the definite article in front of it.  Hmm, come to think of it, He has the name that is above every name.  And the fight He's in--the fight for lives--is the only game in town the universe.

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