Well, the hype and the hoopla have subsided for another year. The national frenzy of the last two weeks pretty much surpassed Super Bowl Sunday, except in Cincinnati – Who Dey! The concentrated attention of an entire citizenry was characteristic of the World Series when I was a kid but unfortunately seems diluted as the NBA playoffs drag on until we are packing for summer vacation. Only in Europe (and probably also in South America) before, during, and after World Cup soccer exists a furor to which our March pales in comparison – believe me on this point, those people are certifiable for days!
However, even I – avowed aficionado of tennis, figure skating, and gymnastics – sort of participate in all the hullabaloo, from Selection Sunday right up to “One Shining Moment,” without ever watching any of the 67 games broadcast. I am more of an off-the-court kind of gal.
I do love the bracketology of it all: the madness of March is one huge chart just waiting for write-ins and white-outs. I never complete mine, however, before the actual games commence. Instead, I wait until the scores from each round become available and then record the results. No bracket busters for me!
Beyond the brackets, however, it is the sideshows I love, the human-interest tidbits, the stories that make me cry or laugh. So, while all of America gorged on a two-week diet of college basketball, here is what fascinated me – David Letterman style:
NUMBER 10: I was disappointed Dayton received no invitation to the Big Dance this year, settling instead for a top seed at the little dance: the NIT. At home we watched lots of Dayton basketball. Coaches Tom Blackburn and Don Donoher, practically household names, were responsible for two of Dayton’s NIT championships over the years. Interestingly, the NIT and the NCAA tournament both began in the late 1930s, with the NIT’s appearances in Madison Square Garden establishing its prestige. The popularity of the NCAA tourney eventually eclipsed the NIT in the 80’s. By the way, broadcaster Brent Musburger first connected the phrase “March Madness” with the NCAA games during his on-air coverage in 1982.
NUMBER 9: I am bestowing the Most Original Brackets Award upon former student, Emily Black Root. She completed her brackets this year in alphabetical order. Although Emily’s Cinderella prediction did not come to pass for Akron, I applaud her cheekiness!
NUMBER 8: What often makes any tournament – and this one was no exception – is that very prospect of a Cinderella team. We are not talking glass basketball shoes, rather dreams beyond all hope and odds coming true. In the tradition of the ash-covered waif, Saint Peter’s University remained deliciously late at the dance as the first-ever #15 seed to reach the Elite Eight. That’s the stuff fairy tales are made of!
NUMBER 7: A Cinderella factoid: the 1985 Villanova team remains the lowest seed to ever win the national title. The eighth-seeded Tigers defeated #9 Dayton, #1 Michigan, #5 Maryland, #2 North Carolina, #2 Memphis, and #1 Georgetown led by Patrick Ewing! What a run!
NUMBER 6: I usually keep an eye on the yell-leaders and rah-rah folks. The viral video of one Indiana cheerleader standing on the hands of her partner to retrieve a ball lodged atop the backboard demonstrated ingenuity at its worst – the mop handle solution – as well as ingenuity at its best – send in cheerleaders adept at basket tosses and heel stretches to save the day!
NUMBER 5: I enjoyed this feel-good story also involving cheerleaders. When the Peacocks of Saint Peter’s unexpectedly advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, there were no funds to send the cheerleaders with the team from New Jersey to Indianapolis. PeacockTV, firmly believing cocks of a feather should flock together, sent the Spirit Squad on its way. Sis-boom-bah!
NUMBER 4: I always love a personal connection. My great-niece Ally, freshman member of the pep band at the University of Memphis, played her mellophone as her team beat the Broncos of Boise State. Memphis had no answer for Gonzaga, but Ally and her bandmates will surely treasure the memories of their time in Portland!
NUMBER 3: A long-held dream came true for my nephew Shawn as he joined a team of four at the scoring table of six first-round games in Greenville, South Carolina. No stranger to the world of sports information and statistics, this was the ultimate assignment for him. Tools of the trade were the laptops and headsets he and his partner used while they shared duties as spotters and recorders of the official statistics used by the NCAA, coaches, and across all platforms. Cool, calm, professional – but such a rush!
NUMBER 2: I began to notice Mike Krzyzewski in 1991 and 1992 during back-to-back national championships with players Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, and Christian Laettner. With 41 years of Blue Devil coaching/teaching, Coach K spent one year more at Duke than I did at GHS. Even with his team’s defeat on Saturday, I felt a certain kinship as I remembered the final days of my own teaching career. Ever the class act, Coach K remained true to his beliefs, including: “You don’t just be a team. You become a team. Through tough games you find that you need each other.”
NUMBER 1: And finally, from song writer David Barrett, there remains “One shining moment, you reached for the sky…one shining moment, you reached deep inside…”
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.