Let March Madness begin

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 05:21 PM

OK, we know we’ve visited this subject before.

But, really, how can we not take note of the fact that today March Madness begins in earnest. And now that the weather has calmed down, winter appears finally to be over and pretty much everybody has power again, this is, after all, pretty much all people will be talking about.

And while basketball, our regional passion, is on center stage, it was nice to see our champions in lower-profile sports get some attention from the sports-fan-in-chief, President Barack Obama, Monday.

John Danowski, coach of the national-champion Duke men’s lacrosse team, captured the emotion of that event perfectly.

“It’s really difficult to find words,” Danowski told The Herald-Sun’s Harold Gutmann during the visit. “You’re standing here on the South Lawn, you’re overlooking the Washington Monument, you’re inside the East Wing. The history and meeting the president of the United States, it’s a bit overwhelming.”

The University of North Carolina women’s soccer and lacrosse teams also were honored with a tour of the White House, photos with Obama and a closing ceremony with the whole group on the South Lawn.

Those three teams from our local universities made up nearly one-sixth of the 19 teams honored at the White House on Monday. Two other schools – Princeton and Southern California – had two teams represented.

Obama made note that the event recognized athletes who weren’t football or basketball players.

“It’s important to acknowledge that your investment and time and effort are just as significant,” he said.

But even the president couldn’t resist talking about basketball.

And why not? The ACC Tournament kicks off at 1 p.m. today for the 61st time with long-time ACC fixture Wake Forest taking on conference newbie Notre Dame. UNC and Duke, both with byes through the first two rounds, will take to the court Friday.

Also today, N. C. Central University opens play in the MEAC tournament, heavily favored to win it all and earn the school’s first-ever berth in the NCAA tournament.

Unlike some years, neither Duke nor UNC is coming off a regular season that seems to have them destined to play in the NCAA Tournament’s final game in a few weeks. But the faithful – and they are legion – can still hope their team will be making a White House visit as the national champions and either team, if it plays as it has in its best games this year, could make a run for it.

In the meantime, we found Obama’s words to the champions he honored on Monday worth repeating:

“A title like that means not just performing your best when the spotlight’s on and the game is underway, but also pushing yourself even harder when no one was watching.”

That, come to think of it, is pretty good advice whether competing for a championship or just going about our daily lives.