The View from My Section – A Father’s Perspective – It’s Time to Dance Again

Historically, March has been a special time for me. The appetizer was the familiar sound of multiple basketballs bouncing on the gym floor and the sound of the scoreboard buzzer in the local community rec center (this particular one was in Pfafftown) when my little boys played in the local youth leagues. The main event, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, included the excitement of hearing the crowd noise, whether at the game in person or walking into my cousin’s man cave and hearing the sound turned up on the televised version. The fun of totally legal March Madness Pools, picking upsets and champions, for bragging rights. There’s nothing like the unique experience of “March Madness,” or the “Big Dance,” as it’s also called; of which, a definition is totally unnecessary for any true Tobacco Road fan. Folks in this part of the country grew up on ACC Basketball, and of course, the tournament. And, just like all of them, I have my special recollections of family traditions taking place on this page of the calendar.

As a child, I grew up adamantly following the University of Virginia, as that’s where I’m from originally. Two members of my family, my late uncle Jerry, an inductee in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and my nephew, Jordan, both graduated from “The Grounds” in Charlottesville. Yet, I dare say, those of us who didn’t get the sheepskin from UVA were just as much, or even more, fanatical than those two. I must add in support of my son, the student, as of 2023 thanks to him, we’re also members of the North Carolina State Wolfpack family.

Years before that, however, I, along with my aunt and uncle, my cousin’s family, some precious and dedicated folks from Ohio, and another friend or two sprinkled into the mix, all purchased tickets to the NCAA Tournament each year. This went on for several years before age and other factors, beyond our control, caught up with us and we discontinued our version of March-Mania. It was a true family event. As some of you know well, when you purchase the tickets far in advance, you don’t know who’s going to be playing in your region. Typically, there would be one team, at least, from the ACC that fans could get behind. That is, of course, if it’s not your rival. So, with it being a grab bag of sorts, all you knew was that you were going to see some good teams, and likely, some exciting basketball at the best time of the year with our familiar crew. And that we did. My cousin and I have been at, or nearly, courtside during many a “one shining moment.” Some of which included our very favorite team.

Not everyone’s a fan, I understand. Fortunately, on Tobacco Road, you can find plenty of them to enjoy everything from a small gathering on the weekends to a big party at the local sports pub. Sports have a way of bringing people together, even those not-so-inclined to follow the sport. The late South African leader and former President Nelson Mandela once said that sport, “has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” And, every March, it brings together thousands of groups, much like ours, to celebrate this hallowed occasion.

Most of the time, by the second week, my bracket was busted (too adventurous), my team had lost or was on the verge of doing so, and so the excitement of the madness was fading. I must include here there was one moment in 2019 when the excitement lasted long past the first week in April. A hint, it involved redemption for the Wahoos. (That’s a classic sports story you should look up sometime.) But, regardless of how quickly the flame of madness burns out, nothing can erase the fond memories and total exhilaration of walking into the coliseum on Day 1. Where, at that point, no one’s team had lost yet, so every fan was excited! There’s nothing like that feeling and the opportunity to share it with an entire row of family and friends. The jokes, dinners, competition and camaraderie among us, matched perfectly with thousands of other fans sharing in this same collective experience, appropriately named “March Madness.”

The games, most of which I’ve long forgotten, have all passed from those days. Yet, one thing that hasn’t passed is the sheer enthusiasm and thrill of this time of year. And a big part of that comes from those experiences and the good times we shared. As you enjoy this unpredictable season supporting your team, take in who you’re sharing it with, and plant the memory into your long-term storage. It’s a keeper. And now, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy “The Big Dance” – southern style.

The musical selection this month can only be the official anthem of March Madness. One Shining Moment (Luther Vandross Version)

So, turn up the music, and let’s go dancing!

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