March is mad and memorable for so many reasons.
There’s college basketball, of course, which, as I’ve said before, plays on a continuous loop on our living room television this time each year.
There’s sunlight after dinner, evenings on the back porch and the slow, steady stroll out of spring break that accelerates to a gallop the closer we get to summer vacation.
There are pints of fresh strawberries, bunches of asparagus and that most heavenly of limited-time Easter candy – Cadbury Mini Eggs.
Sometimes, there’s snow.
But most of all, thank goodness, there’s basketball.
This year’s tournament is extra-special thanks in part to our hometown boys from Wichita State University, who shocked Gonzaga and the world by defeating a No. 1 seed and advancing to the Sweet 16.
(I had to chuckle when I read a New York Times account of last week’s game in Salt Lake City, which described how “Wichita State’s spirit squad spilled onto the floor and its odd, pencil-looking mascot danced around in jubilation.”)
Everyone loves an underdog, especially one with a bizarre mascot.
Similarly, our family watched with glee as the 15th-seeded Eagles from Florida Gulf Coast University slammed and jammed their way past higher-ranked, more respected teams – surviving, advancing and doing the chicken dance on the sidelines.
After Florida Gulf Coast beat No. 2-seed Georgetown in the first round, commentator Charles Barkley got right to the point with the Eagles’ coach:
“Where the hell (is) Florida Gulf Coast at?”
I love Barkley. I love Dick Vitale. I love pep bands, clutch shots and all the crazy shenanigans that eventually make it into the “One Shining Moment” highlight reel that gives me chills every year after the new champion is crowned.
The ball is tipped, and there you are …
It’s too bad most of this annual ritual takes place during the school year, when kids have homework to do, tests to study for and projects to finish.
As a mom, I know I should make sure Hannah and Jack are in bed before halftime of Thursday’s late-start Shocker game. As a fan, though, I’m considering Red Bull for supper.
I was about my daughter’s age when N.C. State, my favorite team and eventual alma mater, won the championship in 1983 with a buzzer-beater alley-oop.
I remember everything about that game and that night – the comeback, the last-second shot, Jim Valvano’s sprint across the court – but nothing about the following day. I can’t recall whether school was even in session, or if my junior high had scheduled some kind of holiday or teacher work day.
I called my parents this week to see if they remembered, and they were stumped, too.
“I don’t think you had school,” Dad said. “Maybe it was Easter?”
Doubtful. It was a Tuesday.
“I remember trying to call Tom and Dave after the game,” he said, referring to my older brothers, who were attending N.C. State at the time. “We couldn’t get through.”
How strange that I can’t remember a thing about that next day, even though N.C. State’s win is one of the most vivid memories of my adolescence. Did I skip school? Sleep through it? Fake a sick day?
Blame skewed priorities or the madness of March.
Or, don’t blame anything. Just watch, cheer, enjoy the game and sleep some other night.