Their names are Josh, Frank the Tank, Sam, Nigel, and Bronson. They comprise the opening five players of the University of Wisconsin basketball team.
Since last month, the team has gradually been making its way through all the brackets to the final national championship game tonight at 8:19pm CST. The field started with 64 games, pared to 32, pared to the Sweet Sixteen, then the Elite Eight, and, two days ago, we beat the undefeated University of Kentucky in the Final Four. So now we are eagerly anticipating the championship play-off tonight against Duke University.
I have watched almost all of our games. I am a big fan of basketball. The players seem so much more accessible to the spectators than, say, the football players who are way down there on the field, hidden behind face masks and under shoulder pads. The basketball game is fast, doesn’t go on for hours, people don’t hit or throw each other around, and rarely does anyone get physically hurt.
Sports are such a huge part of our culture. Part of me cringes about the amount of money that gets sunk into the whole sporting enterprise, the time devoted to sporting games in our lives as spectators, the massive facilities that are built to house the almost endless varieties of competitions, the exemptions from the faculty hiring and retention processes followed so carefully in all but the athletic department, all the hoopla and advertising activities that accompany sports —
And yet …….
Tonight, the Badgers play Duke University for the national championship basketball game. The UW has not won a championship since 1941. I will be right there in front of the television set, other commitments for this evening put aside. For two hours there will be nothing in my world but watching Josh and his colleagues run up and down the basketball court trying to put the basketball through the hoop more often than their opponent.