Some of you who know me or have been following my blog for a while know I love basketball. I started listening to the UK Wildcat games when I was just a kid and got my first little transistor radio. I don’t know why. Nobody in my family had ever attended UK or any college. We were a farm family. College wasn’t expected or encouraged for my parents. My mother graduated from high school one day and got married the next. My dad, who was ten years older than her, attended one day of high school, didn’t like it, and never went back. It wasn’t that he didn’t like learning. He worked algebra problems for fun. Very few problems stumped him, but he didn’t always get the answers the way our teachers told us to. It was just that school and sitting in a classroom weren’t for him.
I don’t remember my parents listening to the Kentucky ballgames. They probably followed the scores. Most Kentuckians embraced Rupp’s basketball teams. They were winners and that made Kentuckians proud. And it always gave you a talking connection. A simple “How about those Cats?” could get the conversation ball rolling almost as good as talking about the weather. Still can. Kids grew up bouncing basketballs on their driveways or spots worn bare of grass in their yards and they imagined themselves winners like the Wildcats. To give a little perspective of how much we got used to UK winning, right now the Wildcats have a home court winning streak of 50 (I think) but under Coach Rupp, the Wildcats went 12 years without a home loss. Fans were stunned when that streak was broken. Some of those years must have been when I started following the Cats.
And so, I love March Madness – until my team gets beat anyway. Then I tend to lose interest. I always fill out one of the brackets – not for a pool, but just for fun – and nearly always have KY winning it all even when I know that’s an unlikely scenario. I don’t study the teams. I just pick them on whims. My whims weren’t too good this year.
I think we need sports. It’s good to have teams that we can follow. Players we can cheer on. I’ve been reading about the World War 2 years. The headlines for those years include a lot of sports stories. It was good to have baseball hitting streaks to think about occasionally instead of all the war news. It also makes me think about how many of those young men of the 1940s who stepped up to the enlistment tables and volunteered to fight were eighteen and nineteen year old kids just like the ballplayers running up and down basketball courts.
Those kids picked up guns and began fighting. They piloted planes heavy with bombs. They crawled across the African countryside in tanks. They manned anti-aircraft guns on naval ships. They huddled in foxholes. They charged the beachheads. They ended up in prison camps in Japan and Germany. Many of them died too young. Others survived the frontlines of the conflict but were never the same. Without a doubt, as Tom Brokaw says in his book, the greatest generation.
Rising to the challenge. That’s what winning basketball teams do and our country knows the freedom we have today because of the men and women who rose to the challenge during those war years.
Thanks for reading. Now to catch up on some scores and see how many more bad picks I made on my brackets.