March Madness means a lot to me, sports fans.
I take it all seriously. I run a pool. I fill out brackets. I trash talk. When I root for you, I root for you all the way. I. Care.
I was raised in a basketball state, of course. I can’t communicate in a meaningful way right now with the segment of our population who Just Doesn’t Get It. I was taught that basketball matters. See, my grandfather and his brother went to WFU. My dad went to med school there, and was on the faculty for twenty years, and my grandparents met on the old Wake Forest campus, back before they officially admitted women. (The women in my family, of course, all went to Meredith, played in jazz bands, won beauty pageants, and became teachers, but Meredith didn’t have a basketball team.) My brother and sister went to UNC. My great uncle composed the NCSU alma mater, back in the early 1920s. I went to Wake for undergrad, and had an okay experience, but I got my master’s at NCSU, and it means the world to me. And yet, I still find myself pulling hard for Wake when they play NCSU.
Today, though, NCSU played UNC, and I pulled so hard for State that I collapsed in a crumpled heap of exhaustion at the end. I might’ve cried just a teeny bit, after that heartbreaking ending. Those boys kept up the pace for the whole game, giving UNC a real run for their money. With about three minutes to go, I was clenching the barstools with white knuckles. Two minutes left, and I went nonverbal. “MMMMM uuh NAA! GGGaaa! Rrrrnnnz!!” and so forth, followed by the heartfelt declaration, “I AM NOT OK.” I felt better with two fists pressed up against my cheeks, and I scrunched lower and lower down as the stress overtook me, and I realized I was as close to fetal position as one can be, while standing in a bar and balancing on one foot.
And we lost. But honestly, I’d rather lose to UNC than just about anyone else, and I’ll take a close game over a blowout any day of the week. The bar, which had been tense and quite visibly divided during the UNC/NCSU game, then united with a fierce intensity to root against Duke for the next two hours. I love the ACC. That endeavor was more successful, and it is always a pleasure to watch the Evil Empire fall.
This is just the warm-up, y’all. Selection Sunday is upon us. We’ve all spent the last few days developing our bracket strategies. I am taking vacation days on Thursday and Friday, and I have been pointing out to anyone who will listen this week, “THIS IS MY CHRISTMAS.”
I’ll see you out there. Go Team!