The NCAA Tournament Is Helping Me
The Moments Matter
Fresh off an Easter egg hunt with my daughters, as well as limited friends, it was time for some Final Four action. Game one was what it was. Watching my children look for some poorly hidden eggs provided more entertainment, if I’m being honest.
It became a moment though, coupled with previous moments, allowing me to smile when it’s been tough to conjure a sincere grin the last 13 months. I’m not an outlier here, obviously, as the entire world is impacted by the pandemic.
Still, moments matter regardless how brief. The slivers of happiness woven between the daily negative spirit it “feels” like everyone I know has been feeling for far too long, hammering over my soul with the fury of 1,000 Nicolas Cage movies.
Not even the good Cage movies, either.
Another moment happened hours after the egg hunt; though I had nothing to do with it. It was unearned bliss gifted to me by the Gonzaga Bulldogs-UCLA Bruins nightcap.
Everyone knows the deal, and we’re too far removed for a recap. The how it happened isn’t important. At least not at this moment. Not for me.
When Jalen Suggs hit the shot at the buzzer, as my family was already sleeping and dreaming of some rabbit breaking into my house, the cracks in my face broke open, making way for another smile to curl in a position it rarely enters.
The next morning was as good. My daughters woke up at a time usually reserved for farmers, providing me next to no sleep. However, as they continue to grow older — 12 and 9, respectively — these moments of belief are starting to slip. The eldest already knows the deal, but she remains committed to the bit. As important, she enjoys our gathering in the living room to see what some human-formed bunny left for her and her sister.
The youngest, she’s (thankfully) still got a case of the sincere-beliefs. Chomping at the bits to see what was given to her, the rabbit could have left a cardboard box and she’d still be grateful.
Unlike me, they are resilient. They’ve handled the pandemic better than most people I know, upping their game in school and in how they view events, people and general happenings.
I’d like to take credit for that as a parent, but this is all on them. They’re the two who rallied around each other to make sure the other was sane during an insane time. Hell, they’ve helped me more than I’ve helped them. They are my anchor.
As Easter Sunday continued, a few moments building toward a return to me covering college basketball were dropped on my head, forcing me to reevaluate what made me stop writing in the first place.
Friends and former colleagues were texting me. Some to just see what I thought of the game or to wish me a Hoppy Easter (get it… we’re all old and make dad jokes). Others were flatly asking me to head to New Orleans to cover the Final Four with them despite the fact I’m currently a rudderless college basketball writer.
Aside: We’re, magically, two boat analogies in here.
When I stopped writing college basketball, fully embracing my position as a member of “admin” at a sports website, I never stopped writing. There were the occasional shitposts at this newsletter, as well as my quest to finish the novel (as mentioned previously, it’s done). There were no legitimate college basketball posts.
I mean, even the last “Final Four preview” post wasn’t a truthful college basketball blog. It was just me being dusty as all hell, typing through the rust and hoping like hell my form wasn’t as bad as the jokes were.
It was bad, though. Objectively so. While it’s not fine, it was a reality check I knew would be coming when I decided to dip my toes in the college basketball waters this deep in the game. Unlike most media who spent the year setting up the groundwork for one of my favorite weekends of the year, I was busy doing pretty much everything other than watching college basketball.
I am simply not as educated on college basketball as I was in years past. I tried like hell to get as caught up to speed as possible, but if anyone knew my previous grind when covering CBB full-time, as opposed to what it is now, their jaws would be hitting the floor.
Usually, to help keep me informed, I speak to numerous coaches during a week, trade scuttlebutt with colleagues, and consume an unhealthy amount of college hoops per day. The past two-ish years? I’ve done literally none of it.
So I found it pretty odd, although it made me happy, to receive texts from friends and colleagues who knew I was “done” as a college basketball scribe. They were hitting me up to get back at it — regardless of the form, the where, or how long it might take me to refigure my style and how I want to approach the sport moving forward.
In the matter of 48 hours (and counting), my life was blessed with an undeserved amount of positive moments. The latest of which — and it inspired me to QUICKLY write this — was my friend Kyle posting a brutally honest and heartfelt post on his newsletter.
As I read it, knowing some but not all of his struggle, it let me know I wasn’t alone. Writing it out here makes me feel like an idiot for not realizing it sooner, but my narcism knows no bounds. It’s inherently in my nature to see the world crumbling around me, whether it’s my fault or something I can’t control, then make it all about me. After all, I’m my favorite subject.
But I’m not alone. You’re not alone. Even when we think we have no friends or family or whoever to count on, and maybe some of us truly don’t, we can still find those moments trying to grab at us. Trying to gift us a smile for no reason. Attempting to lift us from whatever pit of despair we’re currently wallowing in.
And man, do I fucking love to wallow.
In a few hours, the NCAA Tournament will conclude. Gonzaga might make history. They might not. Either way, for two-ish hours, I’ll have an escape from the troubling real world. Those two hours will come after moments I got to spend with my daughters, who’ve spent the better half of 13 months keeping my anxiety-ridden body from collapsing.
I’m off Mondays. For someone like me, a person constantly unable to be grateful for the good things in my life, it’s often good to try to keep a gratitude list. I did exactly that after spending time with my daughters today. In one day, I got to workout, do some LIGHT work, go to the park to play hoops with my kids then come home to play in the yard, and about a billion other things. All of that before I get to cap it off with the title game. It was, undoubtedly, a good fucking day.
It’s easy to forget these moments. To let the piles of toxicity and earth-shattering negativity get us down, washing away the smile we had sprawled across our face. Not tonight, though.
Sure, it’ll likely change the first time I’m met with adversity. I’m a shitheel like that. Nevertheless, I’m not alone in this quest to find reasons to remember to be happy. You’re not, either. Let’s worry about tomorrow, you know, tomorrow. Tonight? Well my friend, we have nothing but a good time on our hands. Hope you enjoy the game as much as I plan to.
Heading into the last game of the season, knowing only the unknown looms on the horizon for me as a writer and parent and member of the human species, I’m feeling grateful… for it all.
Joseph Nardone covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. He’s now trying to write fiction because he’s a fucking idiot and a glutton for punishment. Twitter is @JosephNardone. If you say mean things to him, he’ll just yell at his ceiling.