SWARTZ: For love of the game: putting emotions at stake

Matilda Swartz

At first glance, I am not usually taken for a chick who appreciates her sports. Preconceived notions happen to the best of us. Considering my lack of grace, girlish aim and the sad reality that my first and last experience with organized sports was seventh grade softball, I have contentedly resigned myself to the role of spectator.

It is a position which I undertake with utmost responsibility – making sure from an early age that I understood the system of downs in football, knew how to fill out the scorecards in baseball programs and prepared (every March) to hover over my dad’s shoulder as he crafted his online brackets for the NCAA tournament.

This year, despite not being home when bracket-picking time came around, I took my spectator role to a new level and made an ESPN bracket to call my very own.

There were no major calculations, no fine-tuned strategy that went into my picks. I superficially went by most teams’ numerical ranking, throwing in the occasional upset when a spark of instinct radiating in the deepest part of my gut directed me to do so.

The first round was cake. I could not help but indulge in full-fledged gloating when little old me had surpassed (in points and percentages) a respectable amount of my male hall-mates.

I figured that the secret to these bracket challenges was control.

What a participant really needs to successfully organize these things is a woman’s levelheadedness, the ability to be practical in the face of an experience as emotionally charged as men’s college basketball. With this mindset, I made what seemed to me to be a realistic decision.

As blasphemous as it may seem, I must confess that I followed my head when calling the future path of my Wildcats.

Not to undermine my love for Jay, Dwayne, Colenda and the rest of the stylish gang, I am just too accustomed to heartbreak in the realm of athletics.

Daughter of a Philadelphia native, I’ve been raised with love/hate relationships for the Phillies, the Eagles and the Flyers. Fortunately for me, it only took 18 years to witness one of our namesake teams to take a championship, but I’m still all too familiar with the lump that wells in your throat with the onset of every Philly choke.

With a lifetime of conditioning and ubiquitous warnings against the dangers of giving your heart to a Delaware Valley athlete, for once I could not leave myself vulnerable to another break-up session.

I went against my heart, and became mentally prepared for what would be an eventual end.

Then Duke happened. Then Pitt happened.

Somewhere between 9:30 and 9:31 p.m. Saturday night, an exodus of blue and white poured out of every residential building from South, Main and West campuses.

There was nudity, there were fireworks and there was enough of a reason to momentarily halt automotive activity on Lancaster Avenue.

I clamored amidst the other rioters, still in a bit of a paralytic state over the coronary attack that was the last two seconds of Villanova’s place in the Elite Eight. Despite the wear and tear these types of games take on my nails, despite the pressure they put on my bladder, not to mention the mental exasperation, it is always lovely to be surprised.

With such biological reactions done and over with, all that remains is the irrefutable truth: Villanova has staked its claim in the Final Four.

Wondrous phenomena surround the number four. It appears as a street in the title of a Bob Dylan classic, it represents the headcount of the Beatles, the number of hours we are “supposed” to wait between each meal and now it’s just another turning point in the Villanova saga.

In all attempts to avoid what one could call a jinx and in hopes of not coming across as superstitious I shall refrain from commenting on April 4 predictions. Instead I’ll reflect.

Weeks ago, sitting in front of ESPN.com, I followed my superego; I played by the rules and refused to succumb to false hopes. I shook my head at what I took to be the naiveté of others when they let themselves believe.

I, admittedly, was wrong. I let a history of poor life decisions with following my cheering heart down the field, the court and around the bases blind me.

Being a spectator is not a mechanical process, it is not always about the statistics and the odds, last year’s record and next year’s alterations.

It is about being wholly vulnerable to the game, bracing yourself as you fixate on how many seconds are left on the shot-clock and having no care in the world as to how bizarre you might seem while running down the street with a red face and your L.L. Bean slippers on after a monumental victory.

So for the time being, I vow to cut the cynicism, lower my guard and let in the love. Don’t let me down guys. Go ‘Nova.


Matilda Swartz is a freshman communication major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at [email protected].