Monday, March 16, 2009

The Madness Begins...

You know that I grew up in Knoxville, TN, which is the home of Women's College Basketball, and the Hall of Fame. I know that other schools have teams, but really... why? I guess I can concede that UT needs an opponent, otherwise they'd just be really good at scrimmaging, and really, what's the fun in that?

I am a dyed-in-the-polyester UT Lady Vols fan, and Pat Summitt is one of my long-time heros. When I was a girl (embarrassingly pictured here asking for Pat's autograph in 1989), I wanted desperately to play for the Lady Vols when I grew up. I also desperately needed a wardrobe intervention to rid my waistline of the orange UNITS belt, so one out of two isn't bad.

I watched Bridgette Gordon and Sheila Frost (embarrassingly pictured here) win the first National Championship game in 1988. When I played, I chose #12 as my number, and I did my best to make the front part of my hair look as curly and lofty as Frost's. She was my favorite player, and still holds the Lady Vols career record for most blocked shots (251). She was good, crazy tall, and not too flashy. She made my goal feel attainable.

For my birthday that year, my mom's friend's friend (who worked for the UT Athletic Department), got the entire team to sign a basketball for me. It's still sitting in a prominent place in my bedroom at home. My family went to lots of games, even when we were among the select few. My mother still goes fairly often, and UT Basketball became one of the traditional fun things that we did together.

There are lots of great things about being in ministry, but one of the best things is meeting people who do all kinds of different things with their lives. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, professionals, painters, contractors, hairdressers, massage therapists, singers, actors, real estate agents, and many who are still searching for their vocation. It's a gift to be in a community that celebrates all these folks in whatever they do. Recently, I've gotten to know Beth, who is the CEO of ... women's college basketball. She is the most humble famous person I've ever gotten to know, and she manages a fairly stressful job with such balance and groundedness.

Last week, Beth invited me to come to the world headquarters of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association WORLD headquarters (!) to watch the selection show on Monday night. I was psyched. Matt was incredibly gracious, and stayed home with the boys, and I went with PL and Redykle to the WBCA headquarters in (wait for it) Lilburn, GA. It was surprisingly tucked-away in a little office complex, and made me wonder what the National Association of Basketball Coaches office in Kansas City looks like. I imagine it's not tucked behind Joe's Auto Body, like the WBCA.

We arrived, decked out in our appropriate collegiate t-shirts, just in time to settle in with empty brackets and lots of excited, smart women. It just so happens that Beth seated us right behind Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli, who host a podcast for the WBCA on their own time, just because they love women's basketball. We chatted and joked with them during commercial breaks, and we filled in our brackets with groaning and trash-talk. After the show, the visitors were introduced, and Beth gave us a brief tour. It was such a remarkable experience to be around people who all love the same thing, and work so collaboratively together to promote it. Churches should be so lucky, friends.

We wound up sticking around for the live podcast, and because of our idle chit-chat I somehow managed to become a character on it. So, if you have the time, check out ShootAround's Selection Show. Rev. Mandy, the Methodist Minister, who doesn't share their view of the Pope (there's no Pope in the Bible, right Number 8?), is, in fact, me. So, I guess, I'm famous-ish for all the folks who take time to listen to the podcast.

And, for the record- Methodists don't play Bingo, and no, I did not take a whole box of cocktail napkins with me in my trunk. I rode with my friends, thank you very much.

For all that's been said about the level of play at every stage of women's basketball, it was a gift to be present with such passionate and gifted women who love the sport that's both brought them together and placed them in opposition. It was my first sporting love, and it was so great to celebrate the start of the tournament with those who love it, too.

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