BLOG: A different March Madness
Around this time last year, I wrote about a sad first — the first time in history that March Madness was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
Professionally, as a member of the health care community, I found canceling such a huge and popular annual ceremonial sports event an ominous sign of an uncertain and unpredictable public health crisis.
As a global citizen, the unprecedented cancelation of this annual sports event was an alarming signal that the whole of humanity was bracing itself for a dreadful worldwide pandemic, one that was threatening to become a possible repeat of the brutal 1918 influenza pandemic that killed millions of people around the world, including over 600,000 Americans.
And, personally, as a faculty member at MSU in the College of Human Medicine — and an avid sports fan — my team, the MSU Spartans, had just won their third consecutive Big Ten Championship, their 16th in school history. They were positioned to excel in the 2020 March Madness, finishing the regular season with a 14-6 record in the Big Ten.
This year, March Madness kicked off as scheduled, on March 18. It will be a different March Madness, according to NCAA’s website. Unlike every other year when the first rounds are played in different cities around the country, the 2021 games will all be played in Indiana, mostly in Indianapolis.
I am a physician, but I am also a sports fan, and I have played multiple sports in my younger years. I have not made it to professional school or college sports, but I played sports as a hobby. In childhood, I played soccer — “football” in Jordan — with the boys on the streets of my below middle-class neighborhood in Amman. When the money was low, we would not be able to afford buying a soccer ball; we would make a ball from a large sock filled with cloth/wools. I learned to swim in early childhood. Again, I could not afford going to upscale pools in west Amman, so I would go with the boys to natural water bodies many miles away outside of the city, such as small ponds resulting from rain fall in low spaces in valleys. Also, I would swim in the pool at the farm where my late father was working, during summer vacations.
But my favorite sport is Ping-Pong, also known as table tennis in Jordan. I learned to play early on in middle school. Later, I would play with friends in sports clubs and in billiard places in downtown Amman. In a previous post, I wrote about the story of a patient I saw when I was a resident who shared my Ping-Pong passion and how he and I played the game together. The patient gave me a professional Ping-Pong yasaka paddle that I still have and play with. I also bragged about playing Jordan’s Ping-Pong champion, Marwan Dia.
As I write this post, on March 18, it is 11:33 p.m. The second half of the MSU-UCLA game has just started. The score is 46-42 (MSU). It is a close game, and my heart is beating. I am not sure who will win, but of course I hope the Spartans will.