Ken Pollitz: More than just March, madness

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Columnist

Jean Cabot, a rather tormented and troubled fictional character in the 2006 Academy Award-winning film “Crash,” arrived at a moment of internal clarity when she confessed, “I am angry all of the time … and I don’t know why.”

Seasonally, for us, it has a captivating and contagious moniker, but I’m inclined to wonder if it functions, during these harrowing days, as a slight misnomer!

With last year as a regrettable exception, annually around this time, the bound-and-determined collectively hit the hardwood in pursuit of a coveted title. Ranked, bracketed, and scheduled, the contests unfold. Time, and with it, attrition, marches on in what we all know as March Madness.

We’re supposed to believe that all the madness derives from the fanaticism of following our favorite team or teams through the various tournaments. This uniform insanity – pun intended – can surface the result of our deep-seated allegiance to the home team, our loyalty to an alma mater, or via our own peculiar and perhaps circuitously-contrived webs of connectivity.

The brutal reality, however, is that almost every baller who gets onto the dance floor, and their respective fan base, eventually finds them relegated to leaning up against the wall watching from the sidelines. In the end, while the athletes, coaches, schools and fans may have something to hoist, only a small fraction will lift the championship trophy. I would contend, on a certain level, it’s nothing more than maddening!

Forgive my evident first-hand knowledge of sometimes being a sore loser!

In this general locale, when it comes to high school hoops, save the championship basketball exploits rising out of Napoleon and Botkins, teams around this area left it all out there on the floor but were unable to loft that illusive trophy when the final horn sounded.

With tears welling up, pridefully urging all heads held high, the immediacy of the shattered hopes and dreams left many hanging low. At these moments, the vast majority of us meet up with the second cousin of maddening, that of saddening!

Yet there’s plenty of madness to go around, especially at the next level when the beloved Buckeyes were forced to suffer an early exit from the NCAA Men’s Tournament at the hands of the upstart Golden Eagles. Adding an insult to injury, one irate OSU fan grossly crossing any boundary of respectability by making vicious social-media threats to a member of the Buckeye squad. Assessing his madness, I’d advise anger-management classes immediately.

Perhaps only a temporary irritant is the poor showing by the Big Ten and, for OSU fans in particular, the fact that a lone survivor for the moment is that team from up north! Still, plenty are “upset” and hoping the same fate for the Wolverines this weekend.

On the women’s side of the NCAA, reconfigured to accommodate Covid-19 protocols, plenty of players and teams were more than a little enraged by the inequity of workout equipment available for female athletes throughout the games, in comparison to the men.

Could it be for some, with honest introspection at work, subtly lurking beneath remains the lingering madness due to the cancellation of March Madness 2020?

Hardly any of us are inclined to celebrate March’s one-year anniversary of our pervasive and invasive pandemic, but it has nevertheless arrived. The litany of irritants seems to have grown exponentially these past 12 months, compounded within! I will refrain from any cruel and unusual punishment by recounting some, only adding salt to our wounds.

Though spring is in the air, we might benefit from visiting the metaphor of an iceberg. As the story of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic would remind us, what exists above the surface is not always indicative of the whole! In fact, what lurks below, given a lowered waterline, can be both incredibly dangerous and extensively damaging!

Of late, who isn’t reeling from the aftereffects of back-to-back weeks of mass shootings, one in Atlanta and the other in Boulder? More broadly, this past year we have witnessed multiple protests across the country, some of which have devolved into riots leaving malicious looting, vast amounts of property damage, countless injuries, and tragic deaths, in their wake.

Regardless of where we position ourselves, either in the midst of the callous behavior, or looking on in judgment from afar, who isn’t enraged and somehow maddened by it all?

Whatever side of the bracket, politically, racially, economically, and socially, we find ourselves, much warring has been on full display. Mask mandates may have disguised revealing facial expressions, but the truth is we are rarely privy to what’s actually going on behind the mask and, if you will, below the surface!

Unfortunately, we can hide behind masks. Sadly, we can choose to resist risking honest vulnerability. Unknowingly, we can effectively ignore any dark recesses of that perilous iceberg below.

Consequently, I would surmise, both our own personal mental health and the well-being of our neighbor, is at stake!

With all the madness manifesting itself in sometimes volcanic and eruptive ways, not everything is fictional about Jean. Many among us seem to be “angry all of the time,” visibly or internally.

One rational first step might be, alone or with a trusted friend, to risk asking and answering the question, “How are you really doing, really?” Who wants to, with me, go deep and give it a shot during March madness?

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Columnist

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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