Monday, March 19, 2007

March Madness...Or March Sadness?

I don't consider myself a very emotional person. I don't really cry, and I don't really express my emotion in any particular way that others would be able to see. A lot of people are like this, I'm sure. A lot of athletes are like this too, but during the NCAA Tournament I can always see the emotion on the faces of the players and coaches. Everyone wants to win, and everyone wants to keep moving on.

I'm sure anyone who has ever played sports knows what that feeling is like. For me, I recalled the days of high school baseball. I've always enjoyed playing. When I first started out as a freshman, it seemed like 4 years would be such a long time away. I worked hard and savored the time on the field, but the time moved quickly. When I was a senior and lucky enough to start and play all the time, I was finally happy and wished the time would stop and I could play forever. Well, things don't work like that.

Soon the playoffs were upon us, and we started to prepare. After winning a few games, we were confident. In what turned out to be our last game, we had the lead by 1 run going into the last inning. I was positive we'd be able to get 3 outs and leave the field to play another day. As it turned out, our opponent quickly got runners on base. I still thought we'd make it out alright. I wanted the opportunity to keep playing.

All of a sudden, with 1 out, the hitter at bat smoked a line drive in between left and center field. Playing center field as usual, I thought I'd be able to reach the ball. I ran as fast as I could, but it didn't matter. The ball kept carrying and carrying, and once I couldn't get to it I realized the game was over. That quickly, we had lost. And more importantly, my days of high school baseball were over.

Everyone has little stories like this one though, and to a point, it's very cliched and sometimes even corny. But when you're in a situation like that, you never think it's going to end. I thought I'd be playing baseball for a long time and that 4 years would seem a lot longer than it did.

It didn't, and my time was over just like that.

During the NCAA Tournament, I can sense that similar feeling while watching so many of the games. Sure, some players go on to play in the NBA or play professionally overseas and are able to make a decent or great living from basketball. However, probably 90% of the guys involved in March Madness will never play organized basketball again.

When a team loses, I really feel for them. You can see the uncertainty in their faces and in their every movement after the game. So many of them bury their faces in towels or just fall on the floor motionless unable to grasp the fact that their NCAA career is over. Coaches can't seem to find the right words to explain to their players that the season is over.

They have to move on though. That's life. Everyone, at some point or another, has to do the same thing. Whether it's playing a sport, moving on to a new school, or starting a new job somewhere. When you finally reach that point, there's no turning back. You can't change how things went and you really don't know where they are going.

Is it sad? Sure. But a lot of that is what makes it worth watching. Teams are playing for the chance to advance to the next round, but more importantly, they just want one more.

One more game. One more day.

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