A World Without March Madness

If you’re reading this, I assume you like basketball.

I assume you look forward to March Madness, filling out a bracket and ripping it up when a Cinderella crushes your champion. I hope everyone feels even a modicum of the joy that I feel on Selection Sunday or during the first weekend of Madness. I take off from work, turn down social invitations from friends, and surely bother the hell out of my wife for three weekends a year. From Thanksgiving to the first weekend of April, it might not always be the first thing on my mind, but college basketball is in my head. It’s fluttering around, with little debates and ideas and hopes about what March will bring.

I started this blog because I couldn’t contain those thoughts in my head anymore. I needed other to unleash this obsession onto others and thankfully, others have responded. Those thoughts grew to my work on other platforms, where I met more basketball obsessives. My March routine grew to include others. Twitter jokes (and arguments). Radio interviews. Deadlines and editors. The Palestra Back Fantasy Shootout!

All of it was built in my heart. A tradition that blossomed each spring. The work couldn’t become stressful because it wasn’t actually work. It was a joy. Last season, in the month leading up to Selection Sunday, I wrote about 29,000 words. That’s well more than half of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (more than 47,000 words). I barely noticed. It was March, dammit. That’s what you’re supposed to do!

If you aren’t a basketball person and can’t relate to this special feeling about March, imagine they cancelled Christmas one year. Or if summer never came after a long winter. Or if they didn’t make any new movies for a whole year. Whatever gets your stomach churning with excitement, imagine it went away.

Your favorite thing, gone.

Well, I should correct that.

March Madness is not my favorite thing. I love it, but it will always come second to my family, friends, and loved ones. I am beyond lucky that most of the people in my circle also enjoy March Madness. My mother always takes off to watch the games, often on her birthday, and could not be happier. She coaches Division III women’s basketball, but loves to watch the men’s games every March. My dad, a long time basketball coach, joins her for a now annual trip to the Big East Tournament and is the first person I call after a memorable moment. My sisters, both coaches, love to dissect the decisions of basketball’s biggest names on the sideline. Friends are always along for the ride, both those I speak to all of the time and some who come of of the woodwork to enjoy March with me. Lastly, my wife may say she watches hours and hours begrudgingly, though I know she takes a ton of pleasure in the buzzer-beaters, the drama, and picking a better bracket than her seemingly-expert husband every year. Plus, our dog is along for the ride too:

Basketball lovers or not, the people around me are the most important thing in the world. That’s not a unique statement. Everyone has their family unit, whether its made of a natural immediate family, a cast of characters culled together with love, or some mix between. Cancelling the NCAA Tournament was not about basketball, it was about doing the right thing for others, to protect and help one another.

I look forward to the Big Dance every season, but would never let it stand in the way of the ones I love. It shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s friends or family. It’s sad that certain players and teams and fanbases won’t have the March they dreamed about. It would be far more sad if people were getting sick, struggling, and dying because we had to play some games.

I love those games, but it’s worth losing our second-favorite thing to protect what matters the most.

I wish that the NCAA postponed the tournament. At least let me down easy and give me so hope until May. Maybe these precautionary measures will help our nation correct course and things will settle by then. Maybe it will still be unwise to play then and it would be cancelled anyway. I don’t know.

For now, I know that it is terribly sad that we’re going a yeah without the magic of the tournament. Yet I think we all know that sacrificing that magic could go a long, long way for the common good. I cried today, but I’d cry a lot more if my real favorite thing was in jeopardy.

******

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to ESPN.com, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.

 

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