The NCAA Tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. One thing I love about it is that every team has a chance. No matter how big or small a school that made it is, anything can happen on that game day.
I love the thrills and drama of the tournament. There is nothing better than a buzzer beater to win the game. But along with that total elation and joy comes heartbreak especially for the players whose careers are over.
Much like the heartbreak and joy of the tournament, life is a rollercoaster of ultimate highs and lows.
We found out I was pregnant with Shane only to learn a few days later that my mom was dying. We welcomed our rainbow baby girl almost a year to date since a miscarriage but right as the Covid shutdown began. No one got to meet Alice for months, we couldn’t go anywhere and I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. This past fall, we were so relieved that an amnio showed all was ok with our last baby only to learn a few weeks later that I had breast cancer.
Life is full of ups and downs but we have to look ahead and focus on the positive no matter how bad things seem at the moment.
Another part of the heartbreak of the tournament is seeing the end of careers for some players. Sports was such a huge part of my life as I played from kindergarten through college. The end is hard and we must learn to find our new identity which is not easy.
Sometimes we end on a high note. My last high school sport ended with a state softball title, our third straight and was the perfect ending for the end of my softball and high school athletic career.
The end of my running career in college ended in a way that I’ll say would only happen to me. I was running the 5k at the ECAC Championships at Williams. The 5k was one of the last events of the meet and it was getting darker and cloudier throughout the day. I was running one last race, looking to run a PB and possibly get a qualifying time for nationals if I ran really well. Literally 1.5 miles into the race a thunderstorm hit and officials stopped the race. I was running right where I needed to with the opponents who could push me and this happened. Both myself and coaches knew it would be incredibly hard to wait around for close to an hour (for storm to pass and meet resume) and go out and run where I needed. So my career ended with a cancelled opportunity at one final race.
Instead of focusing on how much it sucked all I could do was laugh about it. What are the odds of this happening? I also focused on the fact that even though my final meet didn’t end the way I wanted, I’m still glad I went and got one last trip with the team. I roomed with throwers and sprinters I didn’t know well and enjoyed my last van ride and conversations we had on the drive up and back. And ultimately this is what sports is about.
Sure sports is about the competition, the nerves, the adrenaline we thrive off but it’s about all those small things: locker room talks, van rides, pushing each other in practice, the overnight trips, the memories made. And those memories are the things that make the end of sports so hard. It’s not just the end result of a win or a loss, but the end of the memories and bonding that hurts the most.
And that may be why I love the NCAA Tournament so much. We get to see all the emotions of winning and losing, teams moving on or the end of the season and careers. We get to see that “one shining moment” each team in the tournament has. We get to see the athletes leave it all on the floor.
So bring on the March Madness, the thrills and upsets, joys and heartbreaks because this sporting event like so many others is truly a reflection of the ups and downs of life.