Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This City Is My City

What is it about our homes that touches our hearts so deeply? 
Especially our hometowns - the places where we grow up, the places where we come of age - why do they stay in our souls for a lifetime? 

* * * * *

Last weekend was a tough one for sports fans from my home state of Michigan. As any true blue college basketball aficionado can tell you, this was a pivotal weekend for the NCAA tournament, in which the surviving sixteen teams from the original field of 68 were cut down to four.

At the beginning of this round of play, two fine local institutions - University of Michigan and Michigan State University - were still alive in the tournament and playing well. Local fans dared to hope that our mitten-shaped homeland might claim two of the coveted Final Four brackets. Particularly in a state that has borne the hardship of Detroit's woes for the past few decades, that was a beautiful dream indeed.

But it was not meant to be. 

Both the Wolverines and the Spartans lost nobly, with the players' hearts in pieces but their heads held high and the coaches making elegant and humble remarks for the breathlessly curious reporters. 

We, the fans, were left with that odd pairing of emotions: rage and pride. Those other teams may have won the games, but we still love our teams. Our guys have more character, integrity, devotion, and passion for the game, not to mention superior ball-handling skills. And let's be honest, the officiating was sketchy. It just wasn't our day.

* * * * *

But when I sit back and honestly assess my emotions, I'll admit to more primal stirrings in my heart. 

My parents both graduated from UM and I grew up on and around that campus. I've a very special fondness for the place that my parents chose as my childhood home. 

Yet I attended Michigan State. And despite the fact that my parents have never gotten over my betrayal, I love my chosen university. Electing to go to MSU was the first decision of my adult life, and with 20/20 hindsight, I can say it was an excellent choice. My life as a Spartan made me who I am today, and the physical place where that happened was integral to the process. 

I came of age on the banks of the Red Cedar, and that campus is the first home I chose for myself

And while I'm as passionate about a fine pick and roll, a sweet fast break, or even the graceful arc of a clean free throw as the next March Madness maniac, I understand that my Michigan universities' sports teams represent much more than just athletic endeavors. As warriors on a symbolic battlefield, they defend the honor and reputation of my childhood and my chosen universities, my home turf, and ultimately, my very own self. 

* * * * *

Cause this city is my city
And I love it, yeah I love it
I was born and raised here
I got it made here
And if I have my way, I'm gonna stay here
For life

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