I have a confession to make, and I’m going to make it here:

Last weekend I spent way too much time watching sports.

When I say way too much, I mean waaaay too much. It’s the first time in years I’ve done that. Maybe I’ve never done it. But man was I into it!

It started with Grand Canyon University getting to “the Dance.” That’s one nickname for the season ending NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament.

It is also known as March Madness, and today it’s comprised of the 68 best teams in the country. Casual observers think it is 64, and you could have counted me among them last year. No longer. Now I know 68 teams are invited, and the bottom eight participate in a “play-in” to fill out the last four spots.

Back to GCU, who played St. Mary’s in the first round. Through some orchestration that had to be divine, I found myself working with the GCU Club Sports program two seasons ago. I was helping teach leadership to student-athletes who had leadership roles on their teams.

Being on campus every Monday for about three months and meeting many students, I couldn’t help but admire the school. Of course I also knew they had a strong NCAA basketball team.

I was back again in the fall semester of 2023, working with a new group of student-athletes, and I began to think of myself as part of GCU. When one of the administrators I work with, a former star player for GCU, asked if I wanted to drop in on a varsity basketball practice, I was in!

Meeting the coach

Sure enough my friend was able to get us into the gym. We watched a little practice, I got to meet the head coach briefly, and I could feel the “fan” hook beginning to set in my heart.

A few weeks later it was time for the season opener. Another administrator offered me two tickets. My wife and I went, and I officially became a Lopes fan.

When they made it to the final 64 I was delighted. And, for the first time in school history, they won their first game!

That was last Friday night, and when it was over I watched part of another game. Then another.

The next day I took a break from basketball and went to a Spring Training baseball game with friends. We cheered and booed and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Our team lost, but it was still awesome.

When I got home I turned on basketball, having set my streaming service to record every NCAA Division 1 basketball game for both men and women. Can you see where this is going?

For much of two days I watched teens and twenty-somethings (both men and women) dribble, shoot, foul, fall down, miss and make free-throws, and step up in the clutch.

I watched hugs, I watched tears, and I watched Caitlin Clark play her final college game in her home arena at Iowa. How could I not watch that?

Parents of kids in sports

They showed a lot of parents watching their kids play in those tournaments. If you’ve had a child in sports you know it is not cheap. One of my nieces competed in figure skating, another rode horses. Both were expensive, but so is every sport — even soccer.

Recently a friend passed along a response to the question of why parents pay for sports. Here is part of it. (Not original with him or me, and edited.)

I don’t pay for my kid to play sports.

I pay for those days when my kid comes home from school and is “too tired” to go to training but goes anyway.

I pay for my kid to learn to be disciplined, focused and dedicated.

I pay for my kid to learn to be physically fit and learn how to eat properly.

I pay for my kid to learn to work with others and to be a good teammate, gracious in defeat and humble in success.

I pay for my kid to learn to deal with disappointment and victory, and in both cases to grow from it.

I pay for my kid to learn to make and accomplish goals.

I pay for my kid to respect not only themselves, but teammates, opponents, officials, and coaches.

I pay for my kid to learn that it takes hours and hours, years and years of hard work and practice to create a champion, and that success does not happen overnight.

I pay for the opportunity my child has and will have to make life-long friendships, create lifelong memories, to be as proud of every achievement as I am.

I pay so that my child can be in the gym instead of in front of a screen.

I pay for those rides home where we make precious memories talking about practice, both good and bad.

The point is, I don’t pay for sports. I pay for the opportunities sports gives my child to grow up physically, socially, mentally, and develop as a whole person. And it seems to be a pretty good investment.

Good madness

Research shows that the term March Madness was first used in 1939 by Illinois high school official Henry V. Porter. He coined that nickname to refer to the original eight-team tournament.

“A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel,” Porter wrote in Illinois High School Athlete magazine.

I hope Henry Porter was right. Society is unsteady and this world is certainly crazy. Maybe March Madness will help contribute to sanity, because we’re investing in something positive — something good.

We see talent, we see hope, we see into the future, and it looks good.

So play and watch all the sports you can. Get your kids involved in sports. Sure, there is a cost, but there are amazing benefits.

I probably watched sports too much last weekend, but I don’t feel all that guilty. The Madness of March really is a source of great good.

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