Deciding upon milestones isn’t all that difficult. Birthdays, anniversaries, seasonal changes, popular culture events – these are the obvious. This week, for instance, I can say I’ve survived to see Spring 2009 and March Madness 2009.
The robins were here right on schedule, waking me up with their chirping by the 18th of the month at about 4:00 am. Since then, the goldfinches, robins, cardinals, wrens, etc. have all been entertaining me in the backyard, following their own daily schedule of appearances. I can do without the squirrels and raccoons, especially when the latter get into our garbage cans and spread their discoveries over the back yard.
This spring, on the day the robins arrived, I got M to push me in the wheelchair around the block in order to celebrate the retreat of snow and ice. One final celebration of spring was getting the crack in the foundation of our basement repaired professionally. Next week, there should finally be enough rain to test the work.
This week has included another major milestone – March Madness. After some cajoling, I agreed to set up an NCAA March Madness pool, as long as I didn’t have to find and decide upon prizes for winners. In most cases, just playing in the pool is reward enough. Right now, one of my good friends and the supplier of my books of sports journalism – D, you know who you are – has been leading the way, wracking up the points. Just you wait, my friend!
I’ve enjoyed reading John Feinstein’s books about the NCAA – The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honour in Division I College Basketball, and Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. At first, it’s tough keeping up with the huge cast of characters, but after a while you begin to recognize the famous players, coaches, conferences and games, all of which enrich the entertainment value of March Madness itself.
Of course, having friends, colleagues and neighbours over to watch games with me has also made a big difference. But, truth be told, watching games with friends tends to mean we chat about everything, only occasionally glimpsing the score or a fantastic dunk on the HD TV.
These two milestones - spring and basketball – have meant that I’ve done better than might have been expected in keeping the cancer monster at bay. Reading about the behind-the-scenes nonsense and honour of college basketball has reminded me about how easy it is sometimes to let integrity slip when there is money to be made. But the game itself is truly one of the best things about living in North America, watching so many fantastic athletes.
Ideally, I’d prefer that these college athletes were what the NCAA claims - student-athletes. But when you watch them interviewed on CBS, most of them can’t put a sentence together. Clearly, most power conferences in the NCAA don’t put a premium on graduating students from their athletic programmes.
When my friends and I watch these games, we will usually talk a little about the hypocrisy involved in college sports, but we’ll also be jumping up and down watching the spectacular performances of athletes who have yet to sign multi-million dollar contracts in the NBA.
Even the commercials and short documentaries can be inspiring. There was one on The Score today about great plays by NCAA basketball stars that was particularly inspiring.
In all cases - probably because we’re open to such messages from the universe – there was this sense for M and me that we’re part of a stream of life that goes on each year. There are ups and downs, births and deaths, growth and decline. We are part of it all, sometimes merely as observers and commentators, sometimes as active contributors. As Julian of Norwich said in 14th-century England: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”