March Sadness Instead Of March Madness

by Kevin Burton

 It’s Selection Sunday and I have the blues.

   Well, I will call it the blues until a better word comes to mind. I’m more numb than blue.

   Today was supposed to be the big report card day for college basketball when schools found out whether they were good enough to be invited to the NCAA tournament. 

   The Coronavirus wiped that out, along with a lot of other things.  (For example, I watched my usual church service on Facebook livestream today.)

   I was prepared for a different kind of disappointment today. My favorite team, Wichita State, was likely headed to a one or two seed in the NIT, the next best tournament but not the big dance.

    But today there is no dancing of any kind. 

   My best high school friend Brandon died years ago, way too young.  Every year on Selection Sunday I would watch the reveal show on CBS and scribble down the teams and the matchups, then later write them more neatly onto brackets I made.

   I would always call Brandon and we would talk about the tournament, make our predictions.  He was a frontrunner and would route for big teams such as Duke.  I would always route for the underdog. My underdog teams (Wichita State, Dayton) if they made the field, somebody else’s underdog if need be (Richmond, Valparaiso, Butler). 

   You may have noticed I capitalized, Selection Sunday.  That’s how big it is for me.  

   The next time the tournament rolled around after my friend died, I gathered paper and pens in front of the TV again. Then it hit me like a punch in the gut – I couldn’t call him.  It wasn’t the same that year and hasn’t been since.

   But this year.  This void year.  It’s just so weird.  No brackets, no upsets, no gladness, no madness.

   Having March Madness taken away because of the virus got my attention much more than the thousands of people in faraway places who have died or who are sick. I say this to my own shame.

   This is a topic for another post at another time perhaps.  Something about priorities for any human being, especially a Christian. Maybe this is the beginning of a redefinition of “madness.”

   For now, I just have that bluish feeling.

   If and when we hear the sound of basketballs bouncing on a hardwood court, I wonder what feelings will come to the surface.

   There is a wonderful clip of former Atlanta Falcons football coach Jerry Glanville doing some creative complaining to a referee who made what he thought was a bad call against his team.  He says “This is the NFL and that stands for ‘not for long’ when you make those (deleted) calls. I’ll be selling groceries…”

   It would have been great fun to be a Falcons beat reporter in the era of Glanville.  But it’s the concept of “not for long” that sticks with me today.

    How long can we afford to place such importance on ball games played by college students?  How long before all of us come face-to-face with realities that we’ve been putting off?

   Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine today will order the closure of all bars and dine-in restaurants in his state, according to WBNS TV in Columbus.  The establishments are permitted to stay open for carry out and delivery. 

   Who knows if other states will follow suit. Only time will tell us if this was an over-reaction or the right thing to do.  For today, it looks as if empty brackets are the least of our worries.

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