Garner: Opinion

Column: Think basketball isn’t important?

Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.
Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record. tiwabu@newsobserver.com

On Tuesday mornings, our news staff gathers around a table outside my office and we discuss our work for the week. There’s nothing special about those meetings. Many, many companies hold regular staff meetings.

But this past Tuesday, the idle chit-chat before we started centered on Monday night’s national championship basketball game between Duke and Wisconsin. The team from the Triangle won the game, which was filled with drama and excitement, and claimed the school’s fifth national basketball championship.

I suspect many offices around these parts saw workers talking about the game the night before.

We all lamented how far behind we were in our work because we had taken time to watch the game – or at least part of it. Two staffers – Kara Bettis at the Eastern Wake News and Jonathan Alexander at the Garner-Cleveland Record – didn’t get to see the entire game because they were covering meetings of the town councils in Knightdale and Garner.

But the outcome of a NCAA championship game is important to many people beyond just newspaper folk.

One woman, upset with the Knightdale town council’s desire to rework some plans at Knightdale Station Park, went so far as to accuse the town council of bringing the subject up on the night of the national championship game, because the council probably figured not too many people would attend a council meeting in lieu of a national title game involving a local team.

In Garner, Finance Director Emily Lucas, a Duke grad, left the meeting as soon as her presentation to the board was complete. Assistant Town Manager Rodney Dickerson, also a Duke grad, was itching to see the meeting end long before it did, so he could get home before he missed too much of the game.

At my house, daughter Pitt, who normally takes a nap after work and before supper, decided to start on her homework right away so she could watch the game without a textbook in her lap or an assignment hanging over her head to be completed after the ball game.

It’s not news to anyone who has lived in these parts for more than a week that the geographical oddity of having three major universities within a 30-minute drive makes this a hotbed for college athletics. And it’s not news that the tradition-rich basketball programs at Duke, N.C. State and North Carolina have given fans around here plenty of reason to cheer lustily when one of the area teams makes it to a title game. After all, the three teams can lay claim to multiple national championships. And all three schools saw this year’s teams advance to the maginal Sweet 16.

What I saw and heard Tuesday morning as our staff meeting got underway was simply the Triangle in microcosm.

It hurts a lot when a local team gets that far and falls short. But it is a joyous, exciting occasion when one of those teams reaches the pinnacle of their sport.

And it’s worth it all to come to work the next day a little bit tired, with a little bit more work still to do and the leftover energy from a good game still whistling through our veins.

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