Monday March 6, 2006 Observation:
I love this time of the year. We are just beginning the NCAA men's basketball tournament that has come to be known as "March Madness". I have been an avid follower of "March Madness" for many years. I hate to admit it but I am a basketball junkie. You would think at my age that maybe I wouldn't be so involved or care about basketball anymore, but I hate to confess there is still a fire burning inside regarding this sport. My love for basketball is irrefutable evidence of a misspent youth playing basketball anywhere and everywhere I could and as often as I could.
I must tell you about the time that "March Madness" almost cost me my life. Jo Anne and my youngest daughter Jackie and I had gone to St. George to visit some of Jo Anne's family. It was toward the end of March and I was a little nervous that I would not be able to see the NCAA championship game. My whole trip brightened considerably however, when Jo Anne's brother Danny, who lives in Mesquite, told me he had a big screen TV in his home and that he would be watching the championship game between the University of Arizona and the University of Kansas. I eagerly accepted his invitation to watch the game with him but the day before the great event the battery that runs the ventilator on the back of my wheelchair died on me. A new battery had been ordered but would not be available until the day after the championship game between Arizona and Kansas. As long as I was plugged into a wall socket I was OK and able to breathe and I have learned that breathing is better than not breathing. Then a light went on in my head -- pure revelation -- my ventilator is equipped with an internal battery that will run for approximately an hour as a lifesaving and safety feature. I knew that it was less than an hour from St. George to Mesquite and the way Jo Anne drives it would even be a shorter time period than that.
Well, I convinced Jo Anne and Jackie to load me in the van late that afternoon and make the dash for Mesquite and the championship game on big screen TV. However, I had failed to take into consideration the fact that we had to stop and get gas in St. George and that we would take the wrong off-ramp in Mesquite to get to Danny's home. We were still some distance from our destination when my ventilator died. When the ventilator dies it gives a big, sickening gasp and then the alarm begins sounding in hopes that somebody will fix the problem. It is quite a gut wrenching sound to the person who is depending on it for his air supply. We had prepared Jackie in advance and so she pulled out the trusty ambubag and began pumping air into my lungs by hand. I don't even think Jackie was a teenager at the time. As she pumped the life-giving air into my lungs she would say "Dad, could I have a new bicycle?" "Yes, yes, anything, just keep pumping!" "Dad, how about a year's pass to Disneyland?" "Yes -- just keep squeezing that bag!"
We finally screeched to a stop in front of Danny's home and he came running out into the driveway with a long extension cord. Soon the ventilator was happy once again as it took over the job of pumping air into my lungs to the relief of Jackie.
Plugged into the wall, munching on chips and dip, drinking root beer, and watching Arizona beat Kansas on the big screen TV I was truly in heaven. I temporarily put out of my mind the fact that later that night -- it turned out to be midnight -- we would have to make the mad dash back up the Virgin River Gorge to St. George to the safety of another extension cord and wall socket. Jo Anne, giving a great imitation of an Indy 500 driver, got us home safely.
Well, am I crazy or what? Was it really worth risking my life to be able to watch that game on the big screen TV? Any normal, rational person would say of course not! But for somebody infected with the "March Madness" disease, yes it was worth the risk.
It is so hard to get basketball out of your blood. I think I am in pretty good company though. I love this passage from President Spencer W. Kimball's Journal which he wrote as a young man: "It is a great occasion. Many people came tonight who have never been before. Some of the townsmen say basketball is a girl’s game but they came in large numbers tonight. Our court is not quite regulation. We are used to it, our opponents not. I have special luck with my shots tonight and the ball goes through the hoop again and again and the game ends with our High School team the victors against the college team. I am the smallest one and the youngest on the team. I have piled up the most points through the efforts of the whole team protecting me and feeding the ball to me. I am on the shoulders of the big fellows of the Academy. They are parading me around the hall to my consternation and embarrassment. I like basketball. I would rather play this game than eat." (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City Bookcraft, 1977), 65) I can totally identify with President Kimball's sentiments regarding basketball.
From President Ezra Taft Benson's biography comes the following incident: “Ezra remembers his father swearing only once. The Oneida Stake Academy was playing Brigham Young College in Logan, and late in the game Oneida trailed by a point after failing to convert on several attempts. Ezra suddenly got the ball and an exasperated George yelled. ‘Hell, T. put it in!’ It was shocking to the local citizens coming from George Benson, but apparently they understood his enthusiasm and anxiety.” Ezra continued, “When we finished with a one-point victory, Father was overjoyed.” (Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 39)
Have I ever been tempted to utter a cuss word during a Lakers or BYU basketball game? Well, hopefully those of you with sound minds will have mercy on those of us who are smitten by "March Madness". If you unfortunately happen to be married to someone with this affliction let me give you the following counsel. As you offer your prayers for your loved one use as a pattern the words of the distraught father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed. "Lord, have mercy on my son [husband]: for he is [a] lunatick..." [Matthew 17: 15] And then we must never forget Paul's counsel to the Thessalonian Saints: "... comfort the feebleminded..." [1 Thessalonians 5: 14]
On the bright side "March Madness" comes only once every 11 months!