How do you go from where you are to where you wanna be? And I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be willing to work for it.
Jim Valvano, ex-coach NC State and founder of the V Foundation 

Before I begin with today’s post, please indulge me for a second.  In a continuation of yesterday’s post I was hit, by one of the new employees at my company with the question of “Where do you get your dry cleaning done?”  I told her that we lived far apart and that my dry cleaner, despite the “secret Chinese discount” she offers me would not be worth the 5 mile drive for $1 per shirt.  She looked at me stunned and told me she pays $6 per shirt for her “Green Cleaners”  $6 per shirt!!!  Are you kidding?!!  The only thing green about that is the money laundering they are doing there!!!  I’d rather throw out the shirt and buy a new one!

Has this world gone mad?  I promise not to go on an AIG tirade. It serves no purpose.

Of course this time of year is when American sports fans go crazy with their college basketball brackets.  I’m no different ever since my high school chemistry teacher got us hooked.  It became more of an addiction when my wife went to business school at Duke University which along with UNC combine to make March Madness an annual tradition.

The pageantry and the emotional ups and downs of each year though pale in comparison to the lifelong lessons that have come out of this Men’s basketball Tournament.  While Duke, UNC, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville and UCLA have combined to win 37 of the 70 championships, to me nothing has defined March Madness and the popularity of the tournament as the stories about those underdogs and especially those underdogs who showed us what heart and emotion can bring to any situation.

The quote for today’s blog comes from Jim Valvano, the coach of the 1983 Championship which many will claim was one of the two greatest upsets in NCAA Championship game history (the Villanova perfect game against Georgetown being the other).  More memorable than the dramatic last second victory was Jim Valvano’s crazy celebration and then 10 year’s later his speech at the ESPY awards as he battled cancer.  The quote above was once of his many quotes from that evening and in his speeches that he made up until his death.

To me. equally inspirational was the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, two young men from Philadelphia who transferred to Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles and made them into a one-time wonder.  In 1990, Hank Gathers died from an abnormal heart condition during the teams last game of the season.  The team was still given a birth in the tournament and with a heavy heart Bo Kimble led his team to the regional finals with the spirit of fans everywhere behind them.  Bo shot free throws left handed in honor of his childhood friend who was left handed and made upset after upset victory until they were eventually eliminated by the eventual champion, UNLV.

So while many may look at this tournament as just another result of sports crazy hysteria in the US.  I look at it for stories of the human spirit.  I don’t know if I will find anything new, but you never know.  The stories of everlasting friendship and courage in the face of death would be hard to beat.

Some may say that I am over-extending the meaning of what this tournament represents, but it is what it is for me. 

Today we met some new friends (they are actually old friends that we met online) and what might have looked like a casual meeting was really more than that.  We met another couple we befriended through an online breast cancer forum.  They have gone through much of what we have gone through with the same physicians but about 15 months ahead of my wife.  After meeting for lunch I had a brief chat with my wife.  She remarked at how happy they looked and I agreed.  While we didn’t discuss it I could see that my wife was making a mental note.  She asked me again how far ahead of her surgery they were in terms of time and noted that timeline would put us somewhere around August 2010.  Her mind was racing there.  For her it wasn’t the mental model but the physical model and goal of where she will be heading.

For me, this is the most wonderful time of the year.  March Madness, the Masters, and baseball is beginning.  Yes, my spirit sure is being lifted.  March Madness means different things to every one of us, but as long as it means something, that’s good!  Just have a dream and a goal.

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