Oh my God, thank You for 44 years of marriage! — though wasn’t it only yesterday when I thought 40 was old? Still, it’s nice to know that while Hubby got excited about standing next to an Indiana U. basketball star, OMG, he still likes standing next to me.
I am writing a dangerous blog because it’s a dangerous time of year.
March Madness, rendered Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana, attacks even the most level-headed citizens of our sensible state.
Take my husband, for example. He wears navy/gray one day and brown/khaki the next. Hubby functions as the voice of sanity on boards and committees. While airport officers seem to regard me as a permanent threat to national security, they never search him.
When they lose, I steel myself for the usual statistical post-mortem and week of mourning.
Yet despite our team’s early tourney exit this year, we continue to watch the games. While Hubby perpetuates his (loud) role as High Judge of Referees, I occasionally can remove my protective gear.
Still recovering from a recent cold, I retired last night at halftime. When he came to bed, Hubby turned on the brightest light possible and whispered tenderly in my ear: “Just so you’ll sleep better, Fairfield beat Quinnipiac.”
That’s the gentle side of his fanaticism.
I can’t blame him, as Hubby’s very DNA impacts his tourney-time behavior. While reserved during off-season, his grandmother displayed no gentle side during March. A lovely old lady, she resembled Mrs. Santa Claus, with bright blue eyes, wavy white hair and pink cheeks. No doubt, she was Etna Green High’s prettiest cheerleader when she met Grandpa, a player on the opposing Atwood High School team. Their marriage marked the last time she fraternized with the enemy, however. When I.U. played, she yelled for their foes’ blood. And for that of the referees, who were crooks! Liars! Democrats!
Some critics, appalled by March Madness’ bizarre symptoms, insist this disease should be eliminated.
Contrariwise, I believe it serves as an important coping measure for those living in the rural Midwest. During long, dreary winters, we cannot linger on sunny beaches. We cannot ski down scenic mountains to deal with stress.
Nevertheless, with the exception of school bus rocking and mascot theft, we enjoy lower crime rates than other sections of the country.
Why? Because basketball games function as group therapy. We shriek, clap and stomp, taking out frustrations and hostilities on the refs. My family’s good health testifies to the positive effects of March Madness. Grandma lived to be 95. Hubby possesses enviable blood pressure numbers.
Um … not so much. Perhaps they, like the rest of the world, believe we all were dropped on our heads.
We do abdicate our signature sanity during Hoosier Hysteria.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What sports madness seizes your community or state every year? Do you join in?
Still, we survive, even thrive. Why?
Two words: tourney time.
Outsiders term our annual basketball obsession “March Madness.” We call it “March Magic.”
More than five decades ago, I experienced my first taste of it in a rural elementary gymnasium packed to the rafters. The fans amazed me more than the skinny eighth-grade team. Upstanding grown-ups shrieked from wooden bleachers like gangs of outraged crows. Teachers popped up and down, much more fun at games than in the classroom! At half-time, I exchanged my nickel for wondrous Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum. I chewed all five flavors at once.
Nothing, however, compared with the games’ true marvel: the referees. A bleat of their whistles, and players and fans stopped in their tracks. Even our school principal, whom I believed was a first cousin of God, stood at attention.
One referee power outshone them all: with upraised fingers, these omnipotent beings could change the scoreboard.
Though I tried to “score” points for my team, the Taylorsville Bears, holding up two fingers, I did not possess the magic.
Gradually, my awe of the game outgrew my wonder at the referees. Their movements paled compared to the raw poetry of farm kids running, guarding, shooting a ball into a basket with awkward grace.
One year, when county tourney time arrived, the Taylorsville Bears were the team to beat.
In the early afternoon, Taylorsville defeated Wayne. Our evil arch-rivals, Rock Creek, pounded on Petersville. Anyone who has experienced small-town basketball can write the script that evening: the hats-off, hands-over-hearts moment of thin civility during the national anthem. The Coliseum roar of a crowd segregated by school colors. The wild choreography of young bodies driving, diving, shooting the basketball. The blast of songs by a Bobble-headed band. The final screams of winners smothered by popcorn confetti as fans stormed the court.
Of course, we won. Do you think I’d write this if Rock Creek had beat us?
March Magic persists, yet consolidation and categorization have changed sports scenery. The sacred barn-like 1920s gymnasium where I watched my first tourney game disappeared years ago. Fruit Stripe gum can be ordered on the Internet — for more than a nickel.
While I still love basketball, I don’t get carried away. When March Magic tugs at me, I wouldn’t think of trying to up my team’s score by raising two fingers.
Now I raise three.
Have you ever lived a “Hoosiers” movie moment?
OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Oh, my God, during March Madness, I don a helmet. With ear plugs. You made my husband, whose signature is sanity, who keeps brown socks in one drawer and black in another. Yet he succumbs to basketball psychosis. OMG, bring healing. But please, not until April 6. (Go, Hoosiers!)