. . . watched from my German living room.
To my American readers, March Madness needs no introduction. To my European readers, a little explanation is in order. “March Madness” is the moniker given to the American men’s college basketball tournament–the national playoff tournament–which takes place in March each year. (Actually March and April, but “April Madness” sounds like rubbish.) Emotions run high, brackets are racked/stacked/bet on, parties are held, faces are painted, and sporting arenas are filled to capacity and shaken to their foundation. It’s a good time.
Every year, it’s a good time.
But this year, it feels especially good. As the whole world knows, it’s an election year in the US of A, and so far it’s been a grueling process that still promises months of gruelishness. (Is this a word?)
So enter March Madness– all of the rowdy, emotional, high stakes tournament, but with quick resolution and less character assassination. Oh how our spirits have needed this. Game on!!
So here I sit, in the Rheinland-Pfalz of Germany, drinking my beer and eating my pretzels and watching this American tradition. It’s a moveable feast, as so many things are for us unsettled, unseated, or expated folks. And that adds a layer of the absurd to the already frenzied tournament. Will I be watching from a face-plant position on my couch at 2 a.m., hollering for my teams between snores? Will I be sitting in a Spanish Tappas restaurant in a German village and fidgeting uncontrollably, wishing I was in a loud American sports bar with a thousand TV’s blaring out the ballgame? (An atmosphere I usually avoid, but would fly to like a moth to the flame during March Madness.) These are moments when your Americaness screams out –when the thin veneer of European posh that you’ve tried so hard to develop peels back at lightning speed, and you stand proud for the face-painting, flag waving American sports nut that you are. But ask me about the American elections, and I’ll once again glaze over and pretend, in my pidgin-German, that I have no idea what you are asking me.
I didn’t attend huge universities, but I often have a horse in the race. A North Carolina native and daughter of a rabid UNC fan, I always root for the UNC Tarheels. How do I feel about another North Carolina favorite–Duke University? Ugh. As UNC’s nemesis, I have a tough time with that one. But in these championship games, I’ll root for Duke unless I have strong feelings for the team they are playing.
Which brings me to Yale. Last night, Yale upset Baylor 79-75, in a game that was pure hustle from start to finish. And what a finish! The last 10 seconds were insane–Baylor only trailing by one point for a while, when Yale pulled ahead by 4 in about the last 3 seconds! But who can track the last few seconds of a game like that? Lungs screaming, head buzzing, it’s one of those epic moments when the world moves so fast and so slow all at once, you see every millisecond’s play, but later recall only a swirl and flow of arms, legs, net–adrenaline! Or is that just me? I saw every second but would be hard pressed to extract the moment by moment play from the emotion that clouds it all. And that, you know, is the sign of a great game.
But back to the facts. Yale won. Yale won. Yale won. And now Yale will meet Duke in the playoffs. Yale is out-ranked and out-sized by Duke. And the whole match has been much maligned and joked about as soon as it was announced. Twitter is lighting up with jokes, like this:
Should Duke-Yale end in a tie, following will decide winner
1. BMW sprint to nearest J Crew
2. Windsor knot race
3. Sudden death chess match
In a tournament that hinges on astonishing athletic prowess and grit, these two teams offer a lot of fodder for jokes–too academic, too preppy, too privileged. These schools have decidely ungritty images. To have them play each other–just too funny to let it go, right?
But look where they are! So, pelt me with rotten tomatoes– or funky bowties and textbooks– and let the preppy jokes fly, but I’m screaming loud and long on this game. Duke looks like the winner based on rank and size, but I’m a Yale Bulldog fan and looking for an upset on this one. If Yale takes it, you’ll hear me shout from across the ocean.
If Yale doesn’t . . . then my fickle heart will move on to UNC and I’ll profess my love just as loudly. (If all my teams fail me, I’ll reminisce about Davidson’s Steph Curry in 2009’s tournament.) It’s not really a fickle heart, it’s just March Madness.
If only we could wear our political loves so lightly.
*For my European readers out there who may need a full primer on March Madness, you can check out this video-–March Madness Explained.