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By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Mad about March Madness

On the Bright Side

 

March 30, 2024



Mel Makaw.

March Madness is upon us, and I'm not talking about being disgruntled with the wet and wild weather we've been having this month. I'm talking about the fan-fueled frenzies surrounding the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, and I'm mad about it. Mad in a good way, as in "very enthusiastic about someone or something."

Actually, truth be told, I'm not very interested in the men's side of the tournament. I'm mad for the women's side and happily, this year, thanks to a number of talented players and more than a few extraordinary teams, record numbers of people are tuning in and turning on to the women's games and learning how exciting those games can be... and the broadcasters are responding with more and more women's games to watch.

As a former player and long-time fan, that's really exciting to me.

My excitement over basketball has been part of my life from early on. Before I was ever on a school team, my cousin Steven and I used to play one on one in the barnyard, with a peach basket nailed to the side of the barn. I fell in love with the game then.

In high school, in Iowa in the 60s, playing limited dribble, divided court, six on six basketball, I played a different game than the boys played, but it was still fun and exciting.

With those restrictive rules (for the girls only; the boys played five on five, full court), players had to be good at what they did, and the girls were quick to develop specific skills.

In college, in Kansas, I finally (gladly) got to play five on five, full court, and I had a blast as a starter on a team that took second in state play. At Fort Hays State we weren't Division I, and we didn't play nearly as many games as teams do now – nor did we travel as far to play – but my Lady Tigers always had a good and strong following.

After college I found adult recreation leagues to play in, plus numerous pickup games and occasional officiating gigs. I loved every aspect of basketball, and I took every opportunity in the sport that I could find. I also followed college women's sports in person and on TV, but it was harder then as there wasn't much offered on TV at all.

I also followed the several false starts for professional women's basketball over the years. Most notably, I got season tickets for Denver's Colorado Xplosion team when the American Basketball League was formed in the 90s (while I was also a regular butt in the seat for most of the Colorado Lady Buffs home games in Boulder). Now I watch the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), whenever their games are broadcast (Go Aces!).

Over the last couple of decades, college women's basketball has gotten more and more press coverage, and I love the expanded exposure. Still fewer games are broadcast than men's, but at least many women's games can be found on TV.

I find I like the college games better than I like the professional games – the excitement and hoopla, the youth, the sportsmanship, the fans, the back stories – but I love watching them all.

This year, thanks especially to the phenomenal Caitlin Clark (Iowa) and other players like her, there is a lot more coverage of the college women's game on television... on sports channels and even in general news reports. And there are far and away a lot more fans attending games and watching them on television.

As a pre-Title IX player, I'm thrilled to see the strides that women's basketball has made over the years. I love the excitement and the high caliber of play these days – women are proving that, given a chance, they can compete at an exceptional level and entertain sold-out crowds. I'm so glad to see these athletes and teams (and coaches) are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

I have several favorite teams I'm following in the current March Madness season – I'm mad for Stanford, Colorado, Oregon State, UConn, and Iowa, among others – but I'm rooting for Iowa to take it all. At any rate I'll be happy just watching the games (Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games are scheduled this weekend, March 29-31 and April 1) and the Final Four will be broadcast next Friday, April 5, with the championship game on Sunday, April 7.

No matter who plays on the 7th for the top trophy, it is sure to be a great game, and another big win for women's basketball in general.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer and author of On the Bright Side, a Collection of Columns (available locally at Tehachapi Arts Center and Healthy Hippie Trading Co), welcomes your comments at morningland@msn.com/.

 
 

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