March Madness: Jimmy Valvano

My extended family on my father's side has conducted an NCAA bracket-pool for as long as I can remember: I haven't won since 1997, and this likely won't be my come-back year (curses, Michigan State!) When I was accepted into the MFA program at Indiana University in Bloomington, my dad bought me season tickets to see the Hoosiers play. I was in basketball country. On more than one occasion, I was an arm's reach away from Larry Bird. Of the sports we watch, college basketball has always seemed like the least corrupt. Maybe that's naive; certainly the sport isn't clean, but it seems like there's a lot of raw talent on the court. With final scores that sometimes don't breach the 50-point mark, the players still seem like kids. When I think of clinging to the wholesomeness of a sport, I think of Jimmy Valvano. He died of bone cancer 23 years ago; he was 47. Eight weeks before he died, he gave his epic ESPY award speech. Most notably, he was the coach at North Carolina State from 1980-1990, but in his speech he talks about his first job, at Rutgers University. This speech is such a tear-jerker, because Jimmy embodies everything that a person can be, and also everything a person can fear. He encourages his audience to constantly think about where they started, where they are, and where they're going. He says that every day, we should strive to laugh, to think, and to have our emotions moved to tears. "That's a full day: that's a heck of a day." By the end, Valvano can barely walk off the stage, but he's grinning and full of hope. Anything can happen in March Madness; anything can happen in life--the only thing a person can do, is have hope.