Sunday, March 24, 2013
People often speak about "March Madness" as simply the temporary focus of the national attention on the 68 college teams competing this month in the NCAA's basketball tournament. (It used to be 64, but the NCAA keeps adding to the team numbers, recognizing that there's more money to be made out there if they can add games without anybody paying much attention. And this by the way, doesn't even count the 'loser's tournament' for those who weren't for some reason invited to the big dance. By this of course, I mean the 32 colleges of the NCAA 'invited' to the NIT [National Invitation Tournament] as a consolation.) March however seems to have been a month long infected with both fervor and madness before anyone considered 'Sweet Sixteen' as a phrase that could used in a discussion of sports.
The Ides of March, for example occur on the 15th, and is famous as the day in which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Now normally the Ides of any month (usually the 13th - 15th) were marked by the Romans through religious celebrations which concluded with a sacrifice. In this particular case however, the sacrifice turned out to be their dictator (a term which meant something far different in those days). The Religious implications of Politics are often rather difficult subjects to understand however; and while normally the elimination of a dictator would likewise be considered a reason for celebration, history remains confused over the elimination of this particular one. Perhaps it's because so many of us were forced to translate what were considered Caesar's heroic efforts in the "Gallic Wars" during our classical education, and perhaps it's because of Rex Harrison's sympathetic depiction of him during the 1963 classic "Cleopatra". It could also have something to do with the fact that many of those who replaced Caesar (even keeping his name) were promoted from Roman Dictator (only a nominal king) to Emperor (more in keeping with our current definition of the term), and in many cases were far worse than the original. It may even be a confused reverance and prejudice against the offences committed by later iterations of the title, 'Kaiser' and 'Czar'. Then again, there may just be those who simply have a grudge against eating the salad that retains the name.
Two days later on the 17th, many around the world celebrate the feast day of the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick (except of course for those of us celebrating my granddaughter Maggie's birthday). This too (as those of you who read my St. Patrick's Day post would have noted) is an event rife with confusion. Beginning with the concept of a former English slave becoming the patron saint of the nation that imprisoned him, proceeding through a number of falsehoods surrounding his use of the shamrock and the departure of Ireland's snakes, and finishing up with the concept of a religious holiday designed to be celebrated with prayer that's become the secular equivalent of a donnybrook. There's certainly enough befuddlement in its history therefore to cheefully add it, along with the Ides, as bit of March's mania. (And at this, I have yet to add my own discomfiture over the consumption of some poor examples of the brewer's art somehow being suddenly found to have become seasonal ambrosia through the addition of emerald-colored chemical enhancement.)
For those of you who might have missed it (unable to see it even days later through the blinding snow that's stretched through the Midwest), next was the arrival of the Vernal Equinox at 7:02 EDT on the 20th; and with it the beginning of Spring. As for me, I have little doubt that the 6-10 inches of white stuff currently falling at the "Just Blowing Smoke" headquarters in Mission, Kansas is a violation of Nature; and no doubt due to the ongoing 'mad scientist' battle between the forces of 'Global Warming' and the secret weather experiments being conducted by the government 'Military-Industrial Complex'. ("Haliburton ... you Bastards!" he said, as he readjusted his tin foil hat .) This of course, leaves local 'Missionaries' complaining about still being trapped in freezing temperatures that only months from now they will long for, when suffering from the soul-sucking heat of another 100 degree Summer. This weather anomaly in a state where basketball is king creates its own form of madness, as locals who would in no case be venturing too far from their television sets suffer from a bi-polar disorder that finds them curiously discomfited at their climactic entrapment.
(This is a well-chronicled condition that has something to do with a mental malady that arises from the manic conflict between wanting to be in an adult beverage dispensing establishment with a bunch of strangers, consuming over-priced ethanol-based concoctions vs. doing the same thing at home with ones family at much lower prices, while at the same time not gambling on potential arrest from the process involved with getting from one to the other. There's an ongoing government study that's sucking up millions in funding for years without yet producing definitive results on the subject.)
Of course for those of us not consumed by the media-generated version of 'March Madness', all of this basketball nonsense is simply that. Perhaps in my case, it has to do with having played hockey for most of my childhood and a good part of what society considers my adulthood (the latter term being very much subject to interpretation). The two sports after all have competing seasons, for a dedicated 'puckster' one basketball games looks pretty much the same as another, and even the occasional distraction of current cheerleader uniform styles is not enough to entice me into watch a sporting event that has so much scoring going on that a 20-point lead at halftime is often meaningless to the result of the game. As for filling out 'The Brackets', I only use brackets to install wall shelving and they don't require any filling out. (Only filling in when I drill a hole in the wall improperly...)
As far as I'm concerned the madness of March can easily do without the absurdity of colleges I've never heard of playing a game that I don't much care for, all to raise exorbitant sums of money for a higher education system that squanders such funding as quickly as they get it and then looks for more in tuition rates increases that far exceed that of inflation. I will choose instead to wait yet another week for Easter, and let the intersection of yet another religious / sectarian holiday fight its own lunatic battle between rampant consumerism and ecclesiastical fervor. I find it far more entertaining, having once had to do so myself, to watch parents deal with the competing ideological battle for attention as my fellow Christians attempt to reconcile their children's conflicts beliefs during another co-opted pagan holiday with serious economic considerations. I'm fascinated in their attempts to explain the spiritual significance of painted hard-boiled eggs, chocolate bunny rabbits, and jelly beans. Having suffered through similar uncomfortable discussions for years with my own offspring, I take a twisted solace from the inevitable psychosis arising from attempts to steal the doctrinal thunder of a miracle of faith by the sugar-frenzied distractions presented by its alternative.
I'm sorry my friends, but quite frankly I have no time in a world far too full of delusion to find a place for the college tournament madness of a sport which I'm not even sure that its inventor James Naismith would still recognize, after the abandonment of so many of his original rules. There's far too much aberration and absurdity in my life in general and March in particular than I care to deal with, to add this made-for-TV hysteria. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to skip ahead now to some April showers and May flowers ... thank you very much.