So, I’m sitting here looking out my window at a dreary blah grey Baltimore skyline which is, yes, somewhere on the top ten least inspiring images known-to-man list. But, on a day like today, so-called “Selection Sunday,” there are endless reasons to be happy. Today is when it all starts; this month of workless Thursdays and Fridays, broken hearts, tears, unbridled joy, drinking for all the wrong reasons, inadvertent hugs, and, if you’re lucky, an impromptu peck. For today begins March. No, not real March, not the 31 days beginning Friday, March 1, and ending Sunday, March 31 (although, yes, Easter Sunday is, for some of us, a reason to hope). Today, instead, begins sports March. In the next 31 days, you, dear reader, can partake in 67 basketball games–or more, if you’re into the NIT and that third other tournament no one can name–baseball’s opening day; and the greenest, more beautiful sporting event on earth, that bastion of white men and pimento cheese sandwiches, the Masters.
Now, I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads and saying, this guy needs to get a life away from his television. After all, spring blooms shortly (Cherry Blossom Festival, you make Washington actually worth visiting) and you’ll actually be able to run outdoors instead of on that squealing treadmill that’s ruining your knees.
But, frankly, you’re missing the point. Sports, when it comes down to it, allow for two things: 1) guys are able to emote, for once, and 2) they create community like few other, uh, community-creating things. Now, ignoring No. 1 (I’m not emoting yet), let’s talk No. 2, sports and community. To understand where I come from, you have to understand that I grew up in Kansas City as a Kansas Jayhawks fan. Kansas basketball, akin to Alabama football (less tree poisoning) or Minnesota hockey (less faux-Canadian accents, bag is pronounced bag, not bayg), possesses people. Kansas basketball borders on religion and Allen Field House, the home of the Jayhawks, borders on cathedral. Kansas basketball takes an otherwise uninspired place and uninspired people and gives them something around which to gather, to clamor, to overindulge, to make friends, and to make enemies. It’s something collective about which people can join together and hope.
In many ways, and perhaps this is a written cop-out, it’s something I cannot entirely explain, it’s just something you have to experience (surely not unlike teams on which you, too, may find yourself spending unwarranted time and feeling–yes, in the back of my head, even I know that it’s just a sport, it’s not anything that important). The fact of the matter is, team sports (obviously excepting the Missouri Tigers and New York Yankees) are a good thing. Amidst the absurd money spent, injuries incurred, and relationships ruined, sports still abide. They do so because they provide you and I a chance to connect and to commune with others and, so long as you’re not a hermetic Cypriot monk, that’s a wonderful thing. I repeat, connection and communion. What are more religious that these?
So, in a little less than an hour, I and millions of other basketball fans will tune into one of least riveting, most rote, and overly long television shows of the year, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament selection show, where Greg Gumbel and a bunch of other useless CBS talking heads will tell us what the internet could tell us more concisely, more quickly, and with considerably less bloviation. But, much like the introit hymn at church this morning, it’s just a very small, yet ceremonial, beginning to a much longer event, an event that lasts three weekends in March (not real March, but sports March), an event in which I, 1500 miles from home, can connect and commune with my fellow Jayhawks. And, hey, so long as you aren’t rooting for Mizzou, you, too, are welcome to join in the fun that is March.
Sláinte. Rock Chalk.