- Tyler Smith
March Madness Reflection
Growing up, March Madness was a recurring part of my life that I could not crack. During the month of March, it seems that everywhere I went: home, school and later in life work, I would spend a substantial amount of time discussing basketball with my friends, family or coworkers. The thing is, I don’t understand basketball, never did. I prefer baseball. And yet, it seemed like wherever I went I was the only one that didn’t. It’s almost impressive that I never managed to absorb anything from the thousands of hours spent listening to long and heated dissertations between uncles and cousins, or days spent in the back corners of classrooms hearing people cite numbers and statistics and averages of players. However ignorant I may be of what actually goes on the basketball court (I do know that it’s called a court!), I can’t deny just how much of an impact basketball has had on my life. It is a fact that was made all the more clearer because of the effects of Covid last year- more on that later.
You see, basketball is a very important asset of black culture. Growing up black in America, I did not see a lot of people that looked like me on my television. In baseball, the sport I do understand, there’s been a noticeable lack of black athletes. There was so little of them that Jackie Robinson made history mostly by being an African American Baseball player. Even though I didn’t understand what was going on, being a kid and seeing people that look like your cousins or your classmates on national television is a welcome sight. It was like a safe spot in a world that sometimes openly hated you.
This influence wasn’t just felt by me. Basketball has gone on to influence other parts of black culture, notably fashion. You all know what Jordans are. You saw the logo as you read that sentence. Air Jordans have been around since 1985, and since then millions of dollars have been spent in pursuit of them. If you never had a pair yourself, you know someone who did, or even someone who made a hobby of collecting them. Shoes aren’t the only clothing that basketball has had a direct hand in influencing. Celebrities like Rihanna, Beyonce and Jay Z have all been lauded for their courtside outfits, so much so that now it’s almost expected to show up courtside wearing your best.
Going back to the point about covid, the lack of and/or limited March Madness last season unexpectedly left a hole in my life. Maybe because, up until then, I never realized how much I enjoyed seeing family and friends get so excited about their favorite teams play or, so passionate about their brackets (I know what that is, too!). It was a whole season of silence; no heated debates, no stats, no lemon pepper wings. It was kind of sad. For someone who knows like four things about basketball, I sure did miss it a lot. Now, with vaccines on the horizon and crowds and small gatherings slowly entering back into life, I couldn’t be happier to be out of the loop while conversing with family and friends again. Maybe this is the year I can finally learn something and add to the family debate about…. whatever it is we’re talking about.