I thought that Villanova taking it all in 2016 was the best it could get. Turns out, even though they were eliminated in the round of 32, 2017 is turning out better.
Every year, the conversation on Selection Sunday goes something like this:
“Ok, everybody, it’s that time of year again,” I say.
My daughter says, “Yay! St. Patrick’s Day!” and does a little dance.
“Yes,” I say, “St. Pat’s is coming up, but so is basketball, so dad’s going to be using the TV a lot.”
My daughter stops dancing and says, “Wait, no Big Bang Theory?”
“Not for a little while,” I say apologetically. She thinks and looks sad for a New York minute and goes back to dancing, chanting, “St. Patrick’s Day! St. Patrick’s Day! … St. Patrick’s Day-Day-Day-Day-DAY!!”
My wife laughs at my daughter and rolls her eyes at me. Not a sports fan, not even a little.
It happened the same way this year.
But then, during Villanova’s first round game, my daughter came and sat with me on the couch, pulled my left arm around her, and started asking me questions about basketball.
It was magical.
This is not the first time she’s joined me in watching sports. She sometimes sits with me in the off-chance I get to catch a Phillies, Eagles, or Flyers game in the NY television market. This year, she even talked my wife into letting us watch the Daytona 500. I think she thought it was going to be an extra-long Blaze and the Monster Machines, but she hid any disappointment and watched a good bit of it with me.
Watching college basketball with her was different. She was interested in how the game was played.
I started with the rules: 2-point baskets, 3-point baskets, fouls, and free-throws. Then we talked basic strategy. I don’t know how much of it she understood. She’s very smart, but only four. Every time I stopped, though, she said, “What else can you tell me, dad?”
Sometime in the second half, she started asking about why I root for certain teams. I explained that I’m a Jayhawks fan because her grandmother was born there and a Villanova fan because her grandfather was born in South Jersey and I grew up there. Then she asked about North Carolina teams because we have family there and I told her—much to the dismay of my ShrinkTank colleagues Dr. Frank Gaskill and Juliet Kuehnle—that I root for NC State because my aunt works there.
I cannot adequately express how happy it makes me that she is interested in college basketball. It’s not only because it increases my chances of being able to watch just one more game without a, “Hey, you know what else is on?” but also because we get to share the tournament’s ecstasy.
March Madness is a unique and almost universal American experience. It’s not one Sunday or seven games. Every year for three glorious weeks, we get to savor contests between top-notch student athletes. We get to delight in victory and beg off defeat as many of them play their last big game ever. We watch as our brackets are busted or break for us, making us rich in cash or bragging rights or both.
We get to watch underdogs upset Titans.
And now, I get to share it with my daughter.
As Mount St. Mary’s struggled against my Villanova Wildcats in the first round, she turned to me and said, “I like Mount St. Mary’s, dad.”
Thinking she was just having fun with me (one of those things I taught her), I asked, “Why? Because I like Villanova?”
“Nope,” she said, “Because they aren’t giving up.”
2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the best ever.
Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU!