March Madness

You change the subject when your friends mention anything that has to do with sports. You shut up as soon as they start arguing about March Madness. You pretend you know what’s going on at the hockey games. You find yourself cheering for the wrong team at football games because you didn’t realize that what just happened was actually bad for the ol’ maroon and white.

Don’t lie. I know you’re out there.

In my science class on Monday, we asked my professor how his break had been. He said, “Good up until yesterday. Cats. Lost.” A Connecticut native sitting behind me stretched and said, “Yep, that’d be my Huskies.” Translation: the University of Connecticut Huskies had knocked off the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA tournament.

I’m going to come out and say it: I thought my professor had meant his pet cats were missing. I was about to turn around and smack the guy behind me for making such an insensitive joke.

Luckily, the conversation continued, and attention to context saved me from making an idiot of myself and revealing my sheer ignorance of sports (until now, of course). It was an extreme case, but being at a place like Colgate increases the likelihood of such an occurence: as I’ve realized, people kinda like to talk about sports. A lot.

Sometimes it feels like there are two kinds of Colgate students. There’s the overwhelming majority, the ones who play, know about, talk about, care about, laugh and/or cry about some kind of sport, then there’s the nearly closeted minority of partially clueless, partially apathetic non-sports fans.

You can’t tell from the person’s clothing, shoes, classes, extracurriculars or gender. One of the most devoted and rabid Indianapolis Colts fanatics I’ve ever met – or anyone in my hall has ever met – is a cheery blonde philosophy major involved with student theater. I was recently solicited for my opinion on matters of the WNBA by a junior I had only ever known in far more artsy contexts.

What makes someone love a sports team? I don’t know. For years, I got by with “Yankees good, Red Sox bad.” But all of a sudden, there are all of these intricacies of team histories and sports other than baseball that seem to be part of the expected set of basic knowledge. Why didn’t they teach us this stuff in kindergarten, damn it?

The fact is, this is Colgate. For better or for worse, sports are a pervasive topic of conversation, especially during March Madness, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. If, for many of us, that means spending a good quarter of our college lives giving the proverbial smile and nod, that might just be the way it is.

So, as I smile, nod and clutch my copy of Liz Hartman Musiker ’80’s The Smart Girl’s Guide to Sports, here’s what I have to say to each of Colgate’s factions:

To my fellow non-savants: Bite the bullet. Just pick up the sports pages and do your best to follow along with what the people around you are saying. If you want to have a conversation with anybody during the month of March, it’s a paradigm shift you’ll have to make.

To everyone else: When you encounter one of us, please be gentle.