I have always loved playing basketball. The sport features prominently in my favourite memories as a student at St. Clement’s, including those from my Grade 13 year when our senior team won two championship titles. I think I will always remember our last regular season game against Havergal for the Championship Cup where, thanks to a free throw by teammate and (still) close friend Alexandra Clarkson, we won by one point. That same year, our team went on to win the annual Montreal Basketball tournament. It is still easy to recall the feeling of being in the gym playing our hearts out, while surrounded by other teams cheering us on. The successful shots, the missed shots, the ones teetering on the rim, the environment within both gyms, and the emotion are still with me.
While I love playing the game, I have only started to watch our Toronto Raptors’ games with regularity in the last four or five years; and, for the first time, I’ve been watching the National College Athletic Association’s (NCAA) March Madness women’s and men’s tournaments.
It could be that I am less busy, or – dare I say it – bored because there are fewer social and work events and distractions. I certainly know that for most March Madness lovers, busyness has never precluded them from committing to following. It could be that I am appreciating the college lead-up to professional sport where there is often less show and more raw skill. I know that I am enjoying watching the women’s NCAA tournament simply because it is more available to watch than it has been in the past, and am very glad to see the attention being brought to inequities that women’s college basketball experiences.
I have always thought the name of the annual March Madness was catchy and have had friends and colleagues who are truly invested in the post-season one and done playoffs. I can say the tournament and name itself have meant more to me this year, for a few reasons.
Firstly, I have felt we have been living a sort of March madness for a year – the ups and downs, the sometimes one-and-done feel of decisions and experiences, and the tired feeling of an intense tournament where there are always winners and losers. I am sure most people, and certainly, all those working in frontline environments, can relate to the freneticism of the last year. Secondly, despite its intensity and ups and downs, I believe it is providing an escape: some moments of shifted focus, an opportunity to be a cheerleader for others, and to feel that despite watching on my own, I am virtually with others who are cheering too. It’s providing connection.
Tournaments end, and people turn their attention to other things. However, the realization that coming together, even if virtually, to cheer each other on, to feel empathy for those who may fall, to celebrate the unexpected, and to keep focused and committed to the tasks at hand, is what March Madness has provided for me.