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Monday, March 14, 2016

Basketball as Salvation

I love March Madness. For a few weeks, as spring greets us, student athletes from colleges across the US compete first for the championships in their regional conferences, and a coveted spot in the annual tournament. And then, there are four frantic and beautiful rounds of single elimination games leading up to the crowning of a new champion the first weekend in April.

I could wax poetic about the skill and stamina, the strategy and the speed and strength, and the dance. If you don’t like basketball, nothing I say will convince you. Basketball is a love borne early that lasts a lifetime.

My childhood team, the Vaqueros (cowboys) were a legendary championship team that may be likened to the Bulls of the ‘90s but who played with the speed and intensity of college hoops. Of the 16 years I spent in Puerto Rico, they won eight championships (not counting regionals). 

My first live game, against the nemesis team, broke records when one of its legendary players reached a ridiculous landmark of points, before the three-point line was even instituted, and he did it from mid-court. Nothin’ but net!

I was there with my Mom and her god-sister. It was a day when I experienced a multitude of highs, followed by a day where family ties were ruptured, broken, and permanently damaged, and which began a descent into a private hell I will never shake…

Joy, elation, and then misery—but at the heart of it, to cut through the pain, basketball. Always basketball. Basketball as (escape) salvation.

Just as with music, I’ve attached precious memories to games and tournaments throughout the years. You know how you can hear a few bars from a song and it can literally transport you across time and space to a specific moment with a very specific someone? Basketball brings me that joy as well.

Four years ago, as March Madness flourished and many brackets bled, I found myself writing a short story (How Nadine and Libby Escaped Destiny), based on a comment about a song. Later that year, I was further inspired and had a dozen more stories -- and these became Because She Was a Woman.

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There is no guarantee that basketball will inspire me to write great stories during this year’s tournament, but I do know that the games do inspire many passions and memories of emotional milestones and breakthroughs. So if not now, maybe later. But now, basketball!

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