April 8 is on the short list for best sports days of the year.
The men’s NCAA championship game between Louisville and Michigan, two fantastic and dynamic teams, will bring a wild, unpredictable and fabulous college basketball season to a close. Plus, the Seattle Mariners play their home opener (with Joe Saunders on the mound for the M’s. Joe Saunders! Feel the excitement).
But do you know what else happens tomorrow (who knew Mondays could be this exciting)? NCAA Division III week begins.
Did you know NCAA Division III week existed before I just told you now? I did not know about it until I received an invite via Facebook to attend. It turns out that this is the first Division III week in history.
According to Jeff Copeland from NCAA.org, “Division III week is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of student-athletes.”
More than 30 percent of Linfield students are student athletes so it is no secret that athletics are important to this school. If the school is to follow Copeland’s advice, the amount of celebration should be substantial all week long.
But at first glance, I felt that Division III week was not fair to the students at the school who do not play sports. After all, the majority of students, in fact, do not play sports here at Linfield. How come student-athletes should be celebrated while student-musicians, for example, should not?
Well, no specific week has been created for student-musicians or any other group. That is the simple answer. But the other answer is because of how deeply ingrained athletics are in our culture.
Although there are many things in life that are more important to survival than athletics, athletics give people an outlet for energy, passion and competitive spirit. Athletics can uplift a massive population, while inspiring an individual at the same time.
Athletics are also one of the only effective ways to connect different generations. Although athletes are bigger and stronger now, the games are played in the same manner. Time travel is begrudgingly impossible at the moment, but you could go to a baseball game in 1913 and the basic on-field rules would be the same as what you see today.
Athletics can be an engine for social change and political discussion. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947, and the black power salute on the medal podium by Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Summer Olympics, come immediately to mind.
Athletics also give opportunities to people to have fun and build relationships and have experiences they never thought possible.
Copeland says that the NCAA national office will be focusing on its partnership with the Special Olympics during the week. Linfield will be exhibiting this partnership at 1 p.m. April 13 in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium. A Special Olympics basketball tournament will be held in the gym, and it costs just $3 to attend.
If you can, go and spend that $3. The people participating will be enjoying themselves through the power of athletics.
Although we should appreciate every student at Linfield at all times, NCAA Division III week makes more sense than I thought. It’s no wonder it is starting on one of the best sports days of the year.
Athletics are powerful so take a second this week if you can to appreciate the work our athletes put into their craft.
Tyler Bradley/ Sports columnist
Tyler Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.