In these days of basketball excitement that can perhaps only be adequately described as Vitalian, it may be hard for some to recall that college isn’t just running, jumping, shooting, and blocking shots while a coach roars. It isn’t just leaping around in your shorts for the entertainment of youngsters with painted faces and gamblers growing increasingly desperate as the brackets shrink.
Say “Arizona” this week and nobody thinks red rocks, or Native American pottery, let alone university. People think number one seeded basketball team and virtual lock for the Final Four. This is what happens when a sports event becomes as big as the N.C.A.A. Basketball Tournaments have become, especially the men’s tournament, for which TV pays Super Bowl and World Series-type money.
The ascension of the tournament into the economic stratosphere and of the players and especially the coaches into international stardom sometimes makes it hard to remember that these splendid machines of back door passing, picking-and-rolling, and fortune-generating entertainment live on college campuses.
Because even as a young man I could hardly run and I could not jump, let alone pick-and-roll, I remember March and college as a time and place of reading and writing. I recall a room in the library with big leather chairs. You could turn yours around so that it faced the shelves. Then you could take off your shoes and prop your stocking-ed feet on the second shelf and read in comfort that might be described as Vitalian if Dick Vitale had every expressed enthusiasm for reading in a comfortable chair.
I remember a professor who read short stories out loud so well that he changed the way I heard the language. That was 34 years ago. I can still hear him.
I remember the guy who taught a course entitled “Revolutions and Revolutionary Thought.” At about this time in 1970, he told us that anybody who wanted to devote the rest of the spring to protesting the war could take off, and that his final grade would be whatever he’d had at midterm. Then, some of us thought he was a sucker, but he may have known more than he was letting on about how and where learning was likely to happen.
I don’t know what’s responsible for the bubbling up of these old times during days when the word “college” is inevitably followed by the word “basketball.” Maybe envy that I didn’t attend a college where people cared immoderately about the basketball team. But maybe not.