Hello, everybody. My name’s Tyrell, and I’m a sportsaholic.
There, I said it. I hate to admit it, but following sports takes up an inordinate amount of my time and energy. I try to resist, but it’s tough to reverse generations of sportsaholism. My father was and is a sportsaholic, and his father before him.
And the sport of choice for Marchant men is men’s college basketball. When you get this issue, conference tournaments will be gearing up and the most wonderful time of the year on the sports calendar is just beginning. Brackets for the NCAA tournament will come out March 16, and then madness will reign supreme.
Yes, March is wonderful.
It gives basketball fans enduring images like NC State coach Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug after Lorenzo Charles’ last-second dunk gave his team the national title in 1983. Or Danny Ainge weaving through the entire Notre Dame defense in the final eight seconds to send BYBYU to the Sweet Sixteen in ’81. And Illinois’ comeback from 15 down against Arizona to win in the 2005 Elite 8.
Every year produces a new hero. Heroes with names like Pittsnogle, Farokhmanesh, Jimmer and Dembo. Many of them don’t go on to play professionally. But for a few days every spring, these kids become national heroes.
One of my all-time favorites is a guy by the name of Matt Howard. Only unhealthy fanatics like myself probably remember him, even though he played in his second consecutive national championship game only three years ago. Howard was a 6’8” center on Butler’s teams that lost the title games in 2010 and ’11. He always wore a baggy T-shirt under his jersey, and his shaggy brown hair always looked as if he’d just gotten out of the shower.
What most people remember about that game 2010 game against Duke is Butler star Gordon Hayward’s last-second halfcourt prayer that traveled just an inch too far to win the championship. But the image tattooed onto my memory is from a split second before Hayward’s oh-so-close heave. It is of Duke stud Kyle Singler hitting the ground like a rag doll after being blindsided by a vicious pick from Howard to spring Hayward open for his would-be game-winner.
Of course, Butler lost the game, and the foul-prone, wispy-mustachioed Howard is largely forgotten (though I’m sure not by Kyle Singler). I think the reason I remember him so fondly is because he reminds me of the way I still like to think of myself: As a farm kid from the Snake River Plain, trying to prove that my simple, homegrown toughness and work ethic belong with the big boys in the so-called real world.
In today’s world, it’s fashionable to obnoxiously whine your way to the head of the table. That method might gain you some notoriety, but it won’t be the kind you want. I don’t know Matt Howard’s background, but I like to think of him as a farm kid who made his way in the world—not by changing who he was, but by embracing it and forcing people to see that people like him matter.
Maybe it’s a stretch to suppose that in the modern world, farm-grown values like hard work, honesty and civility can yield positive results. Maybe it’s naïve to think the ag industry can continue to cultivate ingenuity and innovation alongside trustworthiness and integrity. Maybe it’s just too much to believe that the Butlers of the world can beat the Dukes. And maybe it’s just plain stupid it to take a shoulder to the sternum just so your baby-faced teammate can get an open look at an impossible shot.
Then again, maybe it’s not.
After all, what’s March without a little madness?