Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Keep Calm and Sparty On

Let me introduce you to a C- Basketball Player. This power forward’s nickname was not Buzzer Beater. The best skills I had were defensive. When you picture me on the court way back then (which you probably don’t or won’t), imagine capital d dash white-picket fence. 

Yes, I preferred defense. In fact, I remember my knees shaking and my armpits cascading when my coach put me in to “perform” this set play we had. It was an out-of-bounds play designed to score a three-pointer. We had a great shooting guard who usually performed this play with confidence and grace. I had to take her place for a reason I can’t recall, and when the ball hit my hands, I’m pretty sure I heaved it up into the florescent-bulbed sky with my eyes closed. 

I’m also pretty sure this is the only time I made a three-pointer in my illustrious high school career. 

Maybe this is why I didn’t get that basketball scholarship. Maybe it’s also why I love college basketball so much and why I can’t stand pro ball. Bobby Knight said: “I think that to stop an offense, you must go to the heart of that offense. If it is a particular move, a screen, the break, an outstanding scorer, whatever it is that they like to do and rely on, you have to work in your plans on taking that completely or as much as possible away from them.”

Yeah, yeah, Bobby Knight may have choked a few players and trashed a chair or six, but he’s an analyst now, so it’s getting a smidgen closer to being okay if I say he was right about something, and for the purpose of my point, I’m going to say that something is defense. Choking people is never ever okay, okay?

Defense, at least in college hoops, wins games. It also makes the games a hell of a lot more interesting, ITBLHO (in this brick layer’s humble opinion). Besides defending one’s “goal against the opposition in sports,” defense is defined as the “action of defending from or resisting attack.” And now, my fellow ballers (melon or otherwise), we’re getting somewhere. You didn’t think this was going to be a post about my glory days as a lackluster student athlete, did you? 

Sorry to disappoint. Would it help if I let you polish my track medals and “Unsung Hero” trophy? In truth, I was a Parchment High (Class of ’91) B'nai B'rith scholar-athlete. But this post isn’t about bragging rights or Judaism either. 

I̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶v̶e̶n̶t̶r̶i̶c̶u̶l̶a̶r̶ ̶t̶a̶c̶h̶y̶c̶a̶r̶d̶i̶a̶. It’s about defense. 

More specifically, defending oneself from attacks, and hopefully, resisting the urge to retaliate or: fight back, hit back, respond, react, reply, reciprocate, counterattack, return like for like, get back at someone, give tit for tat, take reprisals, get even, get one's own back, pay someone back, give someone a taste of their own medicine; have/get/take one's revenge, be revenged, avenge oneself. 

If I resist the urge to tit for tat just once, I will consider it a lowercase v-i-c-t-o-r-y. You see, the Madness is about to begin and Mr. March (aka Tom Izzo, aka The Greatest Ever) has taken my beloved Spartans to yet another dance. Spartan Nation will be rooting and sweating right alongside me, and the fans of the Maize and Blue will be wishing for our team’s early downfall. Michigan fans, don’t lie to yourself. You do not root for Michigan State in the event your team loses, just as I don’t root for Michigan if Michigan State loses. We are rivals, and I’d argue that Michigan State has recently become a bigger rival to U of M than those silly folks who wear crimson and what looks like strings of animal turds around their necks. 

(And for the record, Sparty is the name of our mascot. We are The Spartans, not “The Spartys,” just as you are The Wolverines, not “The Wolvies.”) 

This is already beginning to sound pathetic. It’s pathetic to waste time and energy and good clean rage on the rival of one’s alma mater. Since having a child, I’ve begun to think about this wasted time and energy and good clean rage a bit more seriously. Methinks I've become a wee bit defensive and might take this shit too seriously. (I’m giving myself permission to use too many adverbs in this blog, even the same one twice, in consecutive sentences. The. Horror.) 

To give those of you who care nothing of sports some perspective, I think the taking of the shit too seriously began in earnest after, not before, I graduated. When I attended MSU, I didn’t pay that much attention to my team(s). Sure, I went to games ‘n such, but I was busy learning stuff and making new friends and saving the world and eating pizza and wearing Doc Martens with cutoffs and eating pizza and mourning the death of Kurt Cobain and eating pizza and navigating upside-down kamikazes. (Before you insinuate my school is just a party school, I would like to point out that I partook in and witnessed plenty of said partying at the school located in the delightful city of Ann Arbor. Yes, I really do think Ann Arbor is a delightful city.) 

So why did I start caring more instead of less? 

I started caring more because I happen to be proud of my education. I was raised by a single mother (and grandmother) who did everything in her power to ensure I went to college so I could take care of my own damn self as an adult woman. If I one day had a husband and he left like my mom’s did, I could support myself. Smart guidance from a woman who’s a ton smarter than she believes. 

Michigan State University is not an inferior institution and I got very tired of people—sorry, but I’m going to wave my bony finger at Michigan fans in particular—insinuating I was somehow inferior for going there. The insults began to sting and irritate on a too-personal level. Add to that that a lot of the insults came form people with zero affiliation with U of M (other than their great-great Aunt Shirley could have gone there if it weren’t for her bursitis). Add to that that our sports teams began winning more. A lot more. They beat Michigan in both basketball and football more often, and it felt, well, a little like sweet, sweet redemption. 

Michigan State was no longer little brother. (And I just used “that” seventy-five times in that last paragraph. Reminder: This is a blog. It is only a blog and you should consult your doctor if you want a more reliable source regarding ventricular tachycardia.) 

Michigan State University is no longer little brother. There, I typed it and chanted it out loud. 

It shouldn’t matter what anybody says to me about where I went to school. As it turns out, I’m doing just fine. More than just fine. Nobody can take the pride I have in my education away from me or the nostalgia I have for everything that is MSU.  

I have been blessed with a great life and an amazing little girl who I hope will one day go to college. Sure, I’ll dress her in green and white, and teach her to say, “Go Green!” But parents, we should all remember one chilling reality: Our Kids Are Not Us. Ava might go to another college. She might even (gasp) aspire to be a Wolvie. Or maybe (gasp) Ava will decide college isn’t for her after all. 

In the end, I want what most parents want. I want my child to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted. I want her to work hard and follow her bliss. I want her to fall in love. I want her to accept and learn from her failures. I want her to be respectful and generous and kind. I want her to be somebody who can have a copacetic relationship with people who might not share her favorite sports teams or political views or fear of lima beans or theory of relativity. 

I want her to be a fan, not a fanatic. I want her (and gasp, her mother) to spend more of her time defending things that really matter.

Methinks this Spartan selfie needs some work.