Essays — March 17, 2018 11:10 — 0 Comments

Julia Massey on UMBC

UMBC is in Catonsville, MD. It’s the university (and on-campus library) that all of us kids at Catonsville High School went to to feel like we were “really researching” stuff, and where there were ample fields to host regional lacrosse tournaments in which we participated. It is the home of the Retrievers where I’d gone to see a game or two with my former high school coach and totally-obsessed-with-college-basketball father. It’s where Sugar Ray came for a festival once and a classmate got pulled on stage during a song.

As a practice, I like to catch at least a few March Madness games when the sweet sixteen is underway, but I was at my typical level of ignorance to what teams had made it thus far when the tournament began this year. You can imagine my delight and surprise when I found out that my hometown’s neighborhood university made it to the bracket.

“Well that’s one game I intend to watch!” I said, enthusiastically. My roommates, level-headed sports fans, were happy for me, but remarked, “No number-16 seed team has ever beaten a number 1 seed team.” I’m sure it was to prepare me for an inevitable loss, but I said, “Stranger things have happened.” I planned to watch the game.

So, Friday night arrived and my three-year-old son, Carl, and I were in the living room with his kiddo basketball and hoop, watching the first shots of the game. “WHOOOOOAAAA! Three POINTAAAAAAAH” I yelled in the exaggerated way my dad used to with every shot that UMBC made. I was happy to stop and explain to Carl why the shots outside the big arc were worth more. “They’re a lot harder to make!” I said. Carl resumed making his kiddo “Slamma jammas” on his hoop to match my exuberance.

By the end of the first quarter I thought, “Holy shit. These guys just tied Virginia and didn’t look wholly dominated. I think they just might pull this together!” All of a sudden Lyles was a name I knew. Then I took Carl upstairs to go to bed and promptly (regretfully) fell asleep for 5 hours with him.

I awoke at 1:30AM, cursing myself for missing the game, and walked downstairs to check the score. First, I looked at my phone and saw texts from my roommates that read, “Are you watching this?” “Julia Massey for the win!” and “I’m about to eat my words about your Catonsville team. It looks like they are going to be the first 16 seed to ever win an NCAA tournament game.” That’s when the unexpected heart swelling happened. I went online to confirm it was true, and just about broke open with happiness. Stranger things have happened. But now, for certain, this win is a reality.


Julia Massey is the lead singer and principle songwriter in the Seattle band Warren Dunes

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney