by Pete Mazzaccaro

This week marks the convergence of many a High Holiday. There’s Passover, Easter and, of course, the greatest holiday in the high church of college sports, the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA tournament is the ultimate college sports holiday. In all of sports it’s eclipsed only by the Super Bowl, the only sporting event that may be more universal than the one-and-done NCAAs.

Now I wouldn’t dare equate an annual collegiate basketball tournament in importance to the great religious holidays many of us are marking this week. But there is something great about the way our national church of sports can bring us together – even if for just a few weeks,

Like other, traditional holidays, even those who don’t believe can easily get caught up in the festivities. From the local office pool and its ritualistic filling out of The Bracket (the less you know, the better you’ll do) to the impromptu gatherings at TV sets everywhere, from living rooms to restaurants to health clubs.

Also, there is the requisite mythology: from the big upset to the ongoing Cinderella story. Right now, Philadelphia again is enjoying the thrill of its own Sweet Sixteen surprise in the form of a low-seeded La Salle team, saved in the final seconds by a floating layup off of the fingertips of the school’s new hero Tyrone Garland.

The fun of the tournament is just this: the spinning before our very eyes of great narratives, often featuring players we’ve never heard of before and in ways that defy easy prediction.

And around these great tales, the entire country, regardless of religious affiliation, comes together. To watch, to celebrate and, ahem, to gamble. It doesn’t matter how you mark March Madness. The point is that it is here, heralding the arrival of spring and promising an experience that all can enjoy as a community.

And speaking of Community

Last weekend marked the beginning of what may become a big annual community event – an annual Chestnut Hill Hoops Madness sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association.

The event, the inspiration of CHCA president Brien Tilley, was pretty simple. Get a couple of gyms secured and get local kids and adults playing in small three on three tournaments. The response was so great that the 120 available slots filled up immediately.

A large group of people came together to play basketball, and a community celebration was born.

Tilley said he was really pleased with the turnout and that everything went better than he could ever have hoped. He’s certain it will be even bigger next year.

I’d like to see the tournament expanded further, too. I like the idea of more action for adult teams, perhaps three on three matches with teams from different Chestnut Hill institutions. The Local could definitely put an OK team together. I’m sure Chestnut Hill Hospital, the Morris Arboretum, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, area shops and restaurants could compete. I’d love the chance to take the rock to the hole against Hill restaurateur Paul Roller. It would be Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson, Chestnut Hill style.

Anyway, just a suggestion (with apologies to Paul, who’d likely block any shot I could muster).

Looking forward to next year.

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