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March Madness Inside the Arena

When we bought tickets for Rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA* Men’s Basketball Championship, Husband and I hoped to watch some of our favorite teams. At least one SEC* team and maybe the OVC* team would play in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena. And it’d be fun to watch Son’s favorite team, North Carolina. The sports analysts whetted our hopes. Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, #1 Virginia were all mentioned as possibilities in Nashville. So when the bracket was announced, I was disappointed.

I knew nothing about the eight teams, except Missouri which is in the SEC. I stretched a connection that Husband and I ate supper at Shakespeare’s Pizza adjacent to the University of Missouri and then strolled across the university campus.

I like March Madness* so I’d go, pick teams, and have a good time. Watching sports on TV isn’t nearly as fun as seeing live games and all that goes on in the stands, on the sidelines, on the court that cameras can’t take in.

If there had been a wear-your-colors contest, the Cincinnati Bearcat fans decked out in red would’ve won. Also they, led by a small group seated behind the team bench, were the loudest, especially shouting DE-FENSE. And they appreciated great plays. Even when an opposing team player dunked for two points, they joined everyone in the stands and stood with arms stretched high.

The Florida State coach was the most entertaining. Dressed in a navy nylon sports sweatshirt and white tennis shoes, he paced the sideline and worked as hard as his players. He kicked his leg waist high and threw punches in the air.

Cincinnati also won the Battle of the Bands, in my opinion. During a timeout of every game, the arena announcer challenged the school’s bands to “do your best!” As Cincinnati played “Rolling Down the River,” fans clapped to keep time.

Mascots could take lessons from Texas Hook ‘Em. He danced Nevada’s Alfie off the floor during the Mascot Dance Off.   While Alfie swayed his wolf tail, Hook ‘Em moonwalked. Then he hit the floor with the Gator and next did the splits. Alfie threw up his paws in defeat.

The announced attendance was 17, 552 and the best Texas fan was seated right behind me. His continuous calm monologue entertained. “Take the easy lane – down the middle.   It was worth a try – you’ll hit it next time. Get down, you gotta’ get on the floor and dirty sometimes. The ball don’t lie – it’ll go where you shoot it.”  Even when his team lost in overtime, he was upbeat. “What a game! Somebody’s gotta’ lose.”

Up next are the Sweet Sixteen games and I’ll watch on TV and cheer for the two teams that won in Nashville. Nevada, a come-from-behind-team and Florida State that led only once over top-seeded Xavier.  And I’ll wish I were there. There’s more than basketball games to take in.

*NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association

*SEC – Southeastern Conference

*OVC – Ohio Valley Conference

*March Madness – the annual college basketball tournament










Why play team sports?

It was the last game of the season. The last time this basketball season that I’d sit beside my Grand’s other grandmother and we’d chitchat about the five young children and their parents we both love. Our 11-year old Grand knocked the ball out of his opponent’s hands and dribbled down the court toward his team’s goal. “Oh, I hope he hits the shot,” I said.

David threw the ball high. It bounced off the backboard and swished through the net. His sister, two years younger, stood and cheered as if her brother had scored the winning basket in the NCAA* championship game. David and his teammates ran back to the other end of the court to play defense. My Grand looked over his left shoulder and pointed to a teammate to move closer to the goal.

What was in the article I’d read a few days before? A list of the benefits of team sports. Confidence building. David had gained the confidence to steal the ball and risk dribbling for a layup. Something he didn’t do during the first games of the season.

Connect with his teammates. Were David and others in position on the court to play defense? On offense they signaled with nods and hand pointing. Sometimes they connected and successfully scored. Sometimes a pass went out of bounds.

Encourages family involvement. My Grand’s family – parents, grandparents, siblings – came together to support his team. To cheer the team on. To celebrate good plays and wins. To commiserate mistakes and losses.

Provides physical exercise. Practices with the team.   At home, shooting baskets and dribbling and playing pick-up with parents and siblings.

Develops relationships. With players and coaches. Children can form friendships as teammates that carry into adulthood.  And a coach, whether volunteer or paid, is always known as “coach.”

Contributes to stronger academics. It has been documented that children who play team sports are likely to excel in academics. Why? Do they learn to manage time? Are they required to achieve an academic standard to participate in sports?

Teaches respect. Respect for people of authority: referees, umpires, coaches. When the referee blows the whistle and calls a foul on a player, there’s no arguing with his call.   Respect for other players. The game ends. These young 5th and 6th grade boys form two single file lines. Opponents walk past each other with their hands in the air. High-fives just like those of basketball players in high stakes games.

I love team sports. I’ve watched my Grand grow as a ball player, as a person, from game one to the final game. And since he’s learned more about basketball, it’ll be more fun to watch televised games with him. Just in time for my favorite sports month!

Together we’ll take in March Madness, a whole month of NCAA basketball. And think of those college players’ rewards. Team players reap benefits and learn, even when they are no longer children.

*National Collegiate Athletic Association












It’s March Madness for Goodnes Sakes!


Pardon me, if you ring my doorbell and I don’t answer.  And when you call my house, please leave a message on the answering machine.  I’ll get back to you, but it’ll be a couple of weeks.  It’s March Madness, for goodness sakes!  I’m hiding away in our downstairs den in front of our big-screen TV.  Got to take in all the basketball while I can.

Maybe I’m such a March Madness nut because basketball is the only sport I halfway understand.  I was raised in Pickett County where the high school gym filled to standing room only for every Friday night home game.  When I was a babe in arms, my parents took me to my first game, and the only hometown games I didn’t attend for the next 17 years were played when I was sick in bed.

During March Madness, I cheer for my favorite teams – men’s and women’s.  I was disappointed that TTU* didn’t make the NCAA tournaments and I’m still baffled that there were only three SEC men’s teams selected and I’m frustrated that the Vols piddled away their NIT game.  Even if my favorite teams aren’t playing, I’m still watching.

Before or during every game, I choose a team I want to win.  OVC and SEC schools are my first choices.  Then ACC schools and coaches I like.  If I don’t know anything about either team, I often choose the underdog.  Or a team uniform I like – not neon colors or camouflagepatterned shorts.  Sometimes, one player like Brittany Griner on Baylor’s women’s team gives me reason to support her team.

I watch basketball games to see five athletes perform together and separately.  I clap for back door cuts, lob passes, and switches on defense.  I like slam dunks, 6 out of 7 free throws, and three point shots.  Good defense, assists, and team play – that’s makes a game worth watching.  And I like after game celebrations.  Did you see the Wichita State players dance after they beat #1 Gonzaga?  Or how about the 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast equipment manager putting on a show after his team earned a trip to the Sweet Sixteen?

I can’t watch every game live, but I’d like to.  Both men’s and women’s games.  That’s why a DVR was invented.  I can scan the play of a game in less than an hour or sometimes just take in the last quarter.

It’s said that the basketball games during the NCAA tournaments are the best events in sports.  Of course, they are.  That’s why I’m excited.  We’re smack dab in the middle of March Madness!

*For readers who need help with initials. 

            TTU- Tennessee Technological University

            NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association

            OVC – Ohio Valley Conference

            SEC – Southeastern Conference

            ACC – Atlantic Coast Conference

            NIT- National Invitational Tournament

            DVR – Digital Video Recorder