By TERRY CUMMINS
In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. And then He made man with a spare rib that was needed a bit later. It was a rather unique but miraculous way to begin and God saw that it was good. But He probably didn’t anticipate that man would eventually pick a month to observe a peculiar type of madness comparable to splitting the atom and blowing places up. During the month of March, American students and their followers march down a road to a place known as the Final Four. No other country does this. Foreign students use their heads and feet to project a ball into a net. In America, we slam dunk them.
In 1891, genius James Naismith invented basketball. He pumped air into a round goat-skin thing and nailed a peach basket up on a wall. For years, they had to put a nerdy student on a ladder to retrieve the ball from the basket when students awkwardly threw it in there. Then a Phi Beta student said, “Let’s cut the bottom off the basket.” From that momentous event, we now observe March Madness where rabid fans attend games half-dressed with painted faces.
As boys worked their way up to the heights of slam dunking, girls wanted some of the glory, too. Liberal schools permitted girls to dress skimpily and to jump, flip and shimmy cheering boys onto unknown heights. Girls were still not satisfied. They eventually formed teams and traveled the road to the Final Four, too, but who wants to see Connecticut blow every team out?
America, being the civilized nation it is, stresses higher learning and academic excellence. Young boys, who can hit the three, need a little learning to become well-rounded. It’s to their advantage to carry books around for a year before joining Lebron James and the Heat. Universities should not only teach and conduct research, they should continue raising coaches’ salaries to keep them millions above what university presidents and governors make. Taxpayers should continue funding new Roman coliseums large enough to require binoculars to see the ball. Newspapers should forget the news and publish nothing but sports. No, this is not madness.
You find madness in Europe and South America where the masses become violent and riotous at dumb “football” games where players run back and forth frantically kicking at a ball with their hands tied behind their backs. We use the finely coordinated eyes and hands to sink balls into baskets. What graceful beauty it is to see a 6-foot-8 guard smoke a net from downtown to win a Sweet 16 game, or a 7-2 monstrous student break glass with a thunderous dunk.
You find madness in Crimea. As Emperor Putin conquers nations, hoop Gods Calipari and Pitino conquer schools. It’s civilization at its best, but what about inequality? That is a good point. To win championships, schools must spend more to find the best coaches, players and cute, triple-flipping cheerleaders that money can buy. Support your local university with a tithe of at least 10 percent.
Life is not all fun and games. You either win at it, or you don’t. You either cut down the nets, or go back to Podunk and oblivion. Get used to it. Of the 68 institutions of higher learning traveling the road to the Final Four, only one will come out a winner. Basketball is a metaphor for the game of life. You don’t crawl off and die; you go back and re-group, lift weights, move your legs sideways to play better defense, shoot a thousand balls each day, setting your sights on next year. Madness is China or Russia number one.
Do not bother me this month. I sent my wife away and settled my body into a recliner. I’m thriving on junk food and napping with the remote, clicking back and forth to four NCAA channels. I heard something about a lost plane, saw a shirtless Putin on a horse three times and mixed my tax returns in with the sports pages. After the Cats cut the nets, I’ll get in touch a with my soul.
It’s not as maddening as it could be. Our president is a basketball fan, and he’s been watching television, picking the Spartans to win it all. He’s wrong again just as he was trying to win the health care game. But think of the madness if he’d turned the television off and sent our troops to Crimea U.
— Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com