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?
Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.
No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.
Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?
I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.
That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”
The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.
Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”
Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.
Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.
Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.
It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.
Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.
Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?
Once upon a time, Hubby and I joined other cyclists for a 22-mile ride on the Cardinal Greenway. This former railroad track, now cycling/walking path, stretches 62 miles from Marion, Indiana, to Richmond.
Families, college students, daring adolescents, middle-aged couples, and riders even older than we gathered. They brought varieties of bikes.
I shook my head. “We’d probably fall asleep pedaling and wake up under a bus.”
One disadvantage in a multigenerational ride: some riders looked good in biking shorts.
But we forgave them. They couldn’t help it.
Also, courtesy times 40 complicated our start: “After you.”
“No, after you.”
Eventually, we rode through shady woods. Our pace encouraged conversation with friends, new and old. Birds and babbling brooks sang melodies far superior to any vibrating through earbuds.
Besides, with bud-free, textless cycling, we could detect a combine crossing our path before becoming permanently one with it.
We also could hear dogs, though on the Greenway, they were kept on leashes — a bonus for cyclists. Many of us had viewed entirely too many canine teeth and tonsils up close and personal.
Other Greenway features made it a great ride. Picturesque bridges spanned busier roads. A tunnel echoed with our yells. This nosy writer studied backyards and saw how people really live — research.
Several drivers paused to let cyclists cross streets. Their consideration was especially appreciated because our little guys occasionally forgot to stop.
Except dead in the middle of the trail.
Halting a tandem behind them is equivalent to stopping a semi on a highway. Sudden stops might embed the back rider’s teeth in her knees.
Thankfully, most children moved to the right for pauses.
Their strong little legs pumping, pumping, pumping were a beautiful sight. One boy had never ridden 11 miles before. High five!
One trail section runs through soybean and cornfields, wide-open spaces city riders never enjoy. Some cyclists boast of climbing the Rockies. I offer them an unequivocal Thbbft.
A native Hoosier, I like flat. Especially when cycling.
At a picturesque “train stop,” the group enjoyed a yummy picnic, then loaded kids and bikes into the support truck and headed home. Hubby and I, among others, hopped on and zoomed back to the trailhead, thankful for a fun day and weather forecast that fooled meteorologists’ predictions.
Also super-grateful for a soft, soft sofa and [yawn] a major Saturday afternoon nap.
What’s your favorite bike ride memory?
Only two words. But they set off fireworks in Chicago Cub baseball fans. We hug and kiss perfect strangers, whether at the ballpark or the grocery store. When police arrive at the latter, we embrace the officers — and our subsequent cellmates.
Why does a win excite Cub fans so much?
For decades, they have been professional baseball’s “lovable losers.”
Still, Cub fans often outnumber their competitors in their own ballparks.
Typical American sympathy for the underdog? Mass psychosis?
Hubby and I support the Cubs for a better reason. Our friend, Joleen.
For 40 years, Joleen never missed a single, freezing Opening Day at Wrigley. No matter how lousy the Cubs played, Joleen believed.
Diagnosed with cancer, she finally missed Opening Day. But she cheered the Cubs until the day she died, happy because they won a double header. Joleen was buried wearing Cubs earrings.
In her honor, I will always be a Cubs fan.
Yet by now, even Joleen might have wearied of their losses.
Viewing/listening gratis was bad enough. But of the six games Hubby and I attended, the Cubs won … zero.
With their improvement last year, we took our son, his wife, and Baby Jonathan — oh, so cute in his little Cubs shirt and cap — to Wrigley.
They lost again.
Unbelievably, Hubby told a nearby couple we’d never seen the Cubs win. They stared as if we’d grown goat horns. “Your name’s not Murphy, is it?”
The Cubs fell behind.
I avoided eye contact with our neighbors.
Amazingly, the Cubs pulled ahed.
Hubby cheered, “They’re going to win!”
“Right.” I rolled my eyes. “And I’m going to win Miss America.”
“You’d better practice your walkway wave, because they will do it!”
The last strikeout!
“Cubs win!” The cry echoed from Chicago to Lake Michigan. “Cubs win!”
Our neighbors hugged us. W flags bloomed. The happy PA system launched “Go, Cubs, Go,” and thousands joined in, dancing in the seats.
I see what you mean, Joleen.
Unfortunately, the Cubs lost six out of their next eight games. But after subsisting on the baseball equivalent of bread and water, I have tasted my first whipped cream.
I want more!
I imagine the Cubs do, too.
Do you think they’ll win the Series this year?
O my God, how do You handle ballgame prayers? — the crazy mishmash of petitions by opposing players, managers, and fans? Plus umpires’ prayers this game would finish soon! Far greater theological mysteries should occupy me. Nevertheless — OMG, thank You that the Cubs are in the World Series!
My name is Rachael, and I’m a ballgame-aholic.
Football, baseball and basketball rivet me to the small screen.
But Mom raised me with a Midwestern work ethic, scoffing at grown men wearing silly clothes who played with balls and sticks. When she hid the newspaper’s sport section and dispatched Dad’s recliner to the roof, we kids got the message.
My husband’s family, though equally industrious, considered viewing ballgames valid — and Indiana University basketball sacred.
Consequently, Steve requires fewer rationalizations than I, but he sometimes borrows from my vast collection.
Our favorite: we accuse each other of working too hard, then prescribe couch-potato bliss as a mutual health measure. “A little R & R will keep our blood pressures down.”
If this fails to stem coulda-shouldas, we add respectability with semi-productive activities that don’t detract from the loafing so essential to sports viewing.
We count our money.
Okay, that sufficed for three seconds. What next?
- I clip coupons, which borders on constructive. However, I’ll lose the coupons in my black-hole handbag, only to have them magically reappear in an underwear drawer — one day after they expire.
- We fold Hubby’s brown and black socks. He does this on autopilot, and I rarely bother to separate the two, so we can focus on the game.
- My husband polishes shoes. If the score is tied in final quarter, the difference between black and brown also escapes him. But my flip-flops look really shiny.
- Dead-heading plants qualifies as a mildly useful ballgame pastime unless I translate the teams’ picking off passes to picking off flowers. I enjoy getting carried away, but my bald plants do not.
- Manicures, pedicures and ear-hair-trimming sessions also work — with a similar warning.
- Steve and I sort through cassette tapes and vinyl albums. We cannot part with any, resulting in pleasant diligence without actually accomplishing anything.
- We made jelly — once. With all the washing, sieving, and stirring, this pastime lurks perilously close to true fruit-fulness. But if we, mesmerized by attempts to steal home plate, do not add enough pectin or sugar, we risk producing 47 jars of thin, pucker-y grape ice cream sauce.
After 41-plus years of viewing ballgames together, we know how to do quality time. And it’s the best ballgame-watching rationalization ever.
Okay, what’s your favorite excuse?
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!)