Gilmore: The promise of March (Summit Daily staff column)
It’s a terrible outlook for a new year, but I mostly endure January and February. As I navigate my post-holiday, pre-taxes budget, I hunker down and just get through — some years better than others.
But March is different. It’s a month so full of memories and possibilities I can hardly contain myself. You can be skiing in a T-shirt in the morning only to need your ice scraper by the time you get back to your car. During the March Madness basketball tournament, small schools become a big deal, one minute can last an hour and a 19-year-old kid can become a legend. Anything is possible.
This weekend all of that glory will be ushered in with one of my favorite days of the year: Selection Sunday. Usually on the second Sunday in March, college kids from all around the country huddle around the TV, hoping that their school will get called and their season will continue on into the big dance. Some will get their bubbles burst, but others will get to play on national television for the first, and possibly only, time in their basketball careers.
The tournament has always been a big deal in my life. Since I was 3 years old, my family has made picks every year. What started out with a stubborn toddler saying ‘’Kentucky” and nothing else, has turned into the most cutthroat competition of the year. Without fail for 27 years, my mom, dad, brother and I have each come up with our strategy and made our selections. Sometimes these approaches have involved advanced statistical formulas, and sometimes it comes down to which mascot or color scheme you like. But it is all done in the name of family bragging rights. We don’t even get a trophy.
It’s a competitive crew to the point that our conversations get shorter in the weeks leading up to the tourney, each hoping not to divulge too much strategy. Inevitably, panic strikes and the bargaining starts: “If I can’t get Northern Iowa, I want you to get them.” But most often, when the actual picks begin, alliances go out the window and it’s a dog-eat-dog world — except Kentucky. I still get Kentucky. There’s a ritual to it that’s almost sacred, but an unpredictability that keeps it exciting every year, even with the current one-and-done era. Though living and dying with a basketball team might not be the healthiest of family traditions, I consider it the perfect way to start my favorite month.
As the month progresses, the festivities only increase with the mid-month holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. With a heavy dose of Irish heritage, St. Paddy’s Day is a big day for us. One of my first memories of the holiday is going out to dinner only to learn that my cousin’s step-dancing troupe was performing at the same place. We’re just that Irish, and like I said, anything is possible in March.
Many years later, at the same venue, my family made a violinist think he was the best musician to ever pick up the instrument. My grandpa, Patrick, had passed away a year earlier on April Fools’ — fitting, if you knew him — and “Irish Eyes” had played at his funeral. Beyond that, it was a song that just fit him. When he’d look at you with bushy eyebrows and complete mischief in his eyes, you could almost hear the melody.
On this particular St. Patrick’s Day, as soon as the violinist pulled the first string at that crowded restaurant, every person at our table started fighting back the tears, and none of us were successful. After leaving us to sob for an appropriate amount of time, he returned to our table, and didn’t leave for the rest of the night. Since then we’ve started making corned beef at home.
Through all the craziness that March has to offer, there’s one thing that keeps me centered: baseball. They say you should put a clock in with a puppy at night to mimic his mother’s heartbeat and keep him calm. Baseball does the same thing for me. I can almost hear the rhythmic pop of a baseball hitting a catcher’s mitt, and knowing that down in Arizona the Boys of Summer are playing ball puts my mind at ease.
Sometime between curling up in the stands to sleep through Bret Saberhagen’s Rockies debut and working at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, I fell in love with the game. Starting with the inaugural season in 1993, my family had season tickets for 10 years, and while I wish I could say it was love at first sight, I took a while to warm up. Drawing monocles on Don Baylor in the program got me through more than one game in those first couple years, but eventually it clicked. Since then, baseball has become my refuge.
I’ve grown up with this game in so many ways and I feel very privileged for it. When I was 6 or 7 it was a privilege watching my brother play Little League — mostly because he got beaned an unthinkable amount of times, and to a snotty little sister that felt like justice.
In my college years, I spent the summers running a beer cart on the upper deck. For a baseball nerd like me, it was the dream job. I can still hear Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime” echoing through the empty seats while the team warmed up on the field and I iced down the beer.
I also had the honor of attending Opening Day with my college roommate and best friend, Amanda, and her dad — an invite that few got, and I’ll always cherish. Too few years later, I attended his wake under the same lights at Coors Field.
This past season, I had the privilege of buying my own season tickets, something I have wanted to do for years, but could never justify. The baseball gods aligned though, and they just so happened to be selling a 10-game plan with every single game on one of my days off. I attended each one with my dad.
Soon April and the taxman will knock, and my “One Shining Moment” will be done, but for now, the Rockies can still be World Series champions and Kentucky can win the tournament. I’m going to enjoy that for as long as I can.
Susan Gilmore is a copy editor for the Summit Daily. She lives in Dillon.
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