I love March.
It’s the best time of the year. The NCAA Men’s Division I semi-finals (Gonzaga vs. South Carolina at 5:09 p.m CST followed by North Caroline vs. Oregon) are on Saturday, April 1, 2017, with the winners of those games going head-to-head on April 3 in the Championship Game at Phoenix.
If you are a basketball fan, you look forward to filling out your brackets and watching basketball non-stop for three weeks every spring.
In my house, laundry is folded during time-outs; supper, when actually thought about, is made during the half. It’s called March Madness for a reason.
I am smiling as I type this, because Dana Altman, coach of the Oregon Ducks, has led his team to their first Final Four in like a million years.
Dana Altman and The Final Four.
Why am I so stinkin’ proud? Well, Dana Altman is from my hometown of Wilber, Nebraska. He has become nationally known as a winning basketball coach with a high basketball IQ and we.are.proud.of.him.
Now, about our roots: Wilber is a quaint little place, composed of 1,700-ish residents nestled just 45 minutes southwest of Lincoln.
When I was in high school in the 1980’s, most of my 32 classmates were, like me, 100% Czech. We could easily sing and dance and drink to the Beer Barrel Polka.
One of the unique things about Wilber is that some residents got together in the 1960’s and discussed ways they could preserve the Czech traditions and culture. They formed “The Nebraska Czechs” and decided to hold a Czech Festival every year.
If you are free the first weekend of August, you should mosey on over to Wilber, Nebraska. You could play some bingo (games are a quarter) then head down to the beer garden, where you can watch the Wilber students twirl around in their Czech costumes, dancing traditional dances.
One of their instructors is Dirk Altman, Dana’s older brother.
The Altmans are as Czech as any of us. But don’t worry, if you are not of our descent, you can buy a T-Shirt that says “Czech for the Weekend.”
We love our town and like any small town, we love our sports. Basketball and football were always big in Wilber. They still are.
Sports are big in small towns.
I am now a (mostly) grown-up woman, married with children, living in Kansas, and I still love sports. My 6.1” daughter is playing college ball. We.Love.Basketball. March is our favorite month.
And being from Kansas, we had three teams to cheer for this year. Unfortunately, Kansas State lost in the first round and Wichita State lost in the second round. Darn it.
On Saturday night, Kansas University played Oregon in “The Elite Eight.”
Before the game, I heard two sportscasters predicting who’d win. I loved hearing one guy say that he had to go with the underdogs, The Ducks. His reasoning? They had Dana Altman.
My home-town heart grew.
During the game, I thought I wanted the Jayhawks to win, but I kept cheering for the Ducks. My husband looked at me and said, “You rooting for Oregon?”
I laughed and said, “Apparently, I am.”
I don’t know what you’ll be doing on April 1, but my family, along with every Wilber native, will be watching basketball, rooting for Dana Altman, and his team, The Oregon Ducks.
If you would like to be a temporary Wilber Native, then come on over on Saturday night. (Czech Vests are optional.) Bring your kids and some beer. We’ll have snacks for everyone. It’s The Final Four, people. Let’s Celebrate!
If you want to read about Dana Altman’s career, here is one article (of many): When Dana Altman Paid His Dues: How the Oregon Coach’s Humble Start Primed NCAA Success.