The spring season marks a period of rebirth. As the warm weather signifies the end of winter, it brings to us cherry blossoms, tulips and green grass. Similarly in sports, spring signals the end of the college basketball season and the start of a new baseball season in the form of my two favorite sporting events: the NCAA Tournament and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
This past weekend, sports fans watched two Final Four games on Saturday, the MLB Opening Day on Sunday and finally the Gonzaga-North Carolina National Championship game on Monday. How much luckier could a sports fan get?
To me, the two sports signify different things. The college basketball finale is the pinnacle of a month of crazy elation and thrill. There is nothing quite like the excitement of a tournament field of 68 schools where any team has a legitimate shot at beating any other. In the Elite Eight, the overtime game between Wisconsin and Florida showed in full force why the tournament is colloquially referred to as March Madness. Crazy endings happen every year.
But beyond the madness, the NCAA Tournament stirs something deep in the heart of America. Winning a national championship is hard. It takes grit, determination and passion. Even the best teams are overcoming the odds.
It reminds me of President Kennedy’s “moon” speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, when he asked the immortal question, “Why does Rice play Texas?” Kennedy’s answer — “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” — is a testament to America’s character and something brought out in the game of basketball every spring. The difficulty of the tournament touches the soul of America and reminds each of us of the grit needed to sustain us.
Baseball’s Opening Day is of course very different from the elation and determination that comes with the NCAA Tournament. It is the beginning of a long, 162-game journey. Each MLB team sets out with equal hopes and expectations for the season. Each player is ready to make his mark as the best among professionals.
The beginning of the season is matched by old nostalgia. It reminds baseball fans of their childhood days sitting in front of their parents’ television or radio, listening to their favorite broadcaster call out the words every 8-year-old kid loves to hear, “Play ball!” Even if we are not there at the ballpark, those two words allow us to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the game: the fresh new jerseys, the crack of the bat and, of course, the smell of the crackerjacks, popcorn and hot dogs.
All of these things bring the fans back to days gone by, while the players, on the other hand, are ready to press on toward new heights. These feelings of hope and nostalgia mix together and allow us to bond together over a game foolish in itself, but beloved by the country.
The excitement and the determination of the NCAA tournament melds with the nostalgia and the hope of baseball every spring. Sports fans in the United States are blessed to be able to experience two games that touch our collective consciousness so deeply around this time of year.
Amid deep-seated problems and complicated issues in the modern world, it seems almost silly to put such a great emphasis on sports. However, we do ourselves a great service by taking a moment to reflect on how wonderful it is to see the best of ourselves in two games that overlap each other in more ways than just their dates on the calendar.
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