MMQH: March Madness Awaits..

Monday Morning Quick Hits

Can you feel it? You know, that pulsating anxiety that runs throughout your entire body as announcers scream and coworkers jump up and down at their desks. Don’t be alarmed: That’s just the unbridled beauty that is March Madness. The 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is upon us as the madness once again descends on our nation with sports fans and non-sports fans alike becoming bracketologists to try and win their respective gambling pools. Work production will slow dramatically, and this will no doubt have a short-term impact to GDP.

March Madness always reminds me of a tournament game I played back in the spring of 1986.  I was a 5’11, 160 pound all world point guard for Boise High School.  I prided myself on playing lock down defense.  I am talking in your “Jock Strap” defense.  We opened tournament play against Buhl.  We go through our normal warm ups; the buzzer goes off and it is time to play ball.  We huddle up a bit.  Coach gives us a little motivational speech and we head to mid court for the tip off.  As I am walking towards mid court, I noticed a guy from Buhl only has one full arm.  He is roughly 5’11 as well.  I am looking around and noticed my backcourt mate was already shaking hands with one of the other Buhl guards.  It looked as though everyone on my team had already matched up except for me.  In slow motion, the one arm guy came over to me to shake my hand.  NOOOOOOOO!  There were so many thoughts going through my head.  Triple double for me tonight?  Perhaps my name in the paper!  But wait, how big of a deal is a triple/double if the guy who was guarding you only had one arm?  I started to sweat.  I was in a no-win situation here.  Was this a Rudy Ruettiger move?  He will start his first game ever and then they will take him out shortly after tip off.  That was it!

I do not remember his name, so I am going to call him Rudy.  Rudy had a full functioning right arm, but his left arm stopped at the elbow.  It is game time.  We line up around the circle getting ready for the jump ball.  I get my game face on and it is time to show Rudy a little “in your jock” defense.  Tip ball goes to Buhl.  They toss the ball over to Rudy to bring the ball up court.  Per usual, I get down deep into my stance and slap the hardwood a few times.  Yes, I was that guy.  As Rudy brings the ball over mid court, I am just glaring into his eyes.  The next sequence of events I will never forget.  Rudy stares back at me and gives me an “ankle breaking” head fake cross over.  His cross over made Allen Iverson look slow. Rudy went right hand, head fake, cross over to his half arm, half arm back to his right hand and laid the ball off the glass for an easy lay-up.  That was the first play of the game.  2-0 Buhl.  Now I am really starting to sweat.  I just got taken by a guy with one arm.

As I take the inbounds pass and proceed to walk the ball up the court, my coach Gary Larsen glares at me with this look of disgust.  He was bald and his veins were popping all over his forehead.  He yells from the top of his lungs, “Miller, how many arms does your guy have?”  I look at him and reply back, “ONE!”  He replies, “Well guard the G…D….arm!”

I learned at a young age that outward appearances are not a reliable indicator of one’s true character. In other words, I should never judge a book by its cover. We all have disabilities, some you can see and some are internal. Rudy had a disability, but that did not hold him back from his dreams of playing sports. Rudy did not see himself as disabled, he saw himself as an incredible athlete. Unfortunately, at the time, I saw Rudy as disabled and took for granted my ability to out play him on the basketball court. In reality, he was the best athlete on the floor and clearly better than me.

While there may not be any players with a half an arm in this year’s tournament, there will be plenty of athletes and teams that are at a clear athletic disadvantage to their opponent. And just like in years past, the blue chip teams will take them for granted and one or two of these cinderella teams will make it further than they should. I can’t wait to see who that is this year.

Enjoy the tournament!



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