Every year, there are four days in March that completely distract me from my regular life. On basketball courts all over the country, battles are waged between Davids and Goliaths with lower seeded teams trying to make it to the Big Dance to become Cinderella and I simply cannot get enough. While I have loved playing the game since I was a scrappy guard on my Boardman, Ohio girl's basketball team, it is the stories that unravel each year during the NCAA tournament that truly teach life lessons for me and millions of others around the country.
For me, the NCAA basketball tournament is the perfect athletic competition that also offers many parallels to life. Yes, the BIG teams from the POWER conferences always end up with the number one seeds and deservedly so. But in no other sport do 64 other teams get an opportunity to live a dream and vie for a championship on an even playing field. And in no other sports competition is the gauntlet as difficult for those high seeds which is why I think using the word “survive” in the favored March phrase “survive and advance” is so fitting.
My husband and I own our own digital marketing and website development company and are about to celebrate our 25th year in business. Yes, I said 25 years...in business...with my husband...24/7 (we actually get along extremely well and are great partners). We can relate to being the underdog, trying to "survive and advance" ourselves some years, and finally becoming Cinderella and making it to the Big Dance in 2016 when we were recognized as the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year.
But back to basketball...
The first two days of the tournament are certainly my favorite…double digit seeds are often very good basketball teams, but from smaller conferences with, supposedly, less demanding schedules. They often have something to prove…kids who were passed over by the big schools finally get a shot to show the world what they’ve got. These are my favorite teams, of course, because they are most like me. True underdogs with less talent but tons of heart!
It’s also why my least favorite team in the tournament is usually Kentucky…or other teams like them that are filled with the typical “one and done” players who are logging their single season in the NCAA on the fast pass to the NBA. Are they amazing athletes? – absolutely, but do I enjoy watching them win…absolutely not! I want to see team work. Give me a team of mostly seniors, preferably undersized and usually strong on defense, and I’ll be jumping out of my seat and scaring the dog rooting for them!
Those teams are the ones that remind me that anything is possible with hard work and when you truly love what you do. It is also why my bracket is a hot mess of upsets that usually ends in my swift exit from contention…except that one year that I was on fire! When everyone I knew was trying to figure out why on earth I picked Mercer over Duke and where I got a Mercer foam finger! In case you don’t remember, Mercer won that game and the reason for the Mercer swag was that my niece was on the softball team there at the time.