You will not find a lot of sports entries on this blog. I can’t speak for Michele, but my days as a sports fan largely ended with my divorce. My ex, a former sports photographer and reporter, lived and breathed football, basketball and baseball. He was a graduate of Ohio State; my alma mater is Indiana (you remember Bobby Knight). We had a friendly Big Ten rivalry, but after 18 years of having my fall weekends monopolized by football games on TV, I was done with leagues of all kinds.
That’s not saying that sports haven’t played an important role in my own history.
I grew up with the Cincinnati Reds when they were the Big Red Machine. When I still had empty brain cells, I knew each player’s batting average. My high school wasn’t exactly a sports powerhouse, but going to football games was what you did on fall Friday nights. Basketball, too, was de rigueur.
At Indiana University, I skipped the pricier tickets and losing seasons of the gridiron to follow the NCAA champion soccer team. I knew nothing about soccer, but the guys were gorgeous and there were no helmets or padding to obscure the view. Basketball goes without saying: IU won the NIT and the NCAA championship while I was there. That, my friends, was an experience worth rooting for.
I went to the occasional football game when we lived in Dallas (I got a scorching sunburn watching Ohio State play in the Cotton Bowl), and got a second thrilling chance to follow Indiana to an NCAA championship, albeit from a distance. On Cape Cod, we painted the rooms in our new house as we listened to the Patriots slowly built a juggernaut.
Sports in America have changed during my lifetime. Most colleges are now more pro than amateur. Free agency, steroids, sky-high salaries and ticket prices have soured me on most pro teams.
Following the crazy upsets in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney makes me feel a little bit like I’ve gone back in time. Butler has been my team from the start. Though small, it’s a school with a rich basketball history in a largely traditional basketball-crazed state – the closest I can get to IU. I likely won’t watch tonight’s game – it starts too late, and I’ll be at a conference bunking with a colleague. But for a few shining moments, it’s been déjà vu all over again.