From the City Administrator’s Desk…

—by Mark Jackson

March is one of my favorite times of the year; it is hopefully the ending of winter and the beginning of spring. Being Irish it’s also the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and it’s the start of the Lenten season.

It’s also the madness of the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s where in last year’s tournament 15th seed Florida Gulf Coast University makes it to the Sweet Sixteen and 9th seeded Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference crashes into the Final Four. It’s where an underdog school has an opportunity to knock off an elite team on a national stage. Remember (sadly) in 2001, when #15 Hampton knocked off #2 seed Iowa State University in the opening round of the tournament. Who didn’t root for the Butler Bulldogs, enrollment 4,000, from the Horizon League when they played in back-to-back National Championship games losing in 2010 to Duke by a bucket and losing in 2011 to Connecticut? What other sport or national tournament has where an underdog can go up against an elite school on a national stage? And WIN!

We love and cheer for an underdog. Many of our most famous sports movies are based on an individual or team overcoming great odds. During the start of March Madness, I watch one of my favorite underdog movies Hoosiers. Yes, it is about the mythical Hickory Huskers with a school enrollment of 64 winning the 1952 Indiana High School basketball tournament against mighty South Bend Central with an enrollment of more than 2,000, but the movie is mostly about "redemption" of their basketball coach Norman Dale who years before was a highly successful college coach, of Shooter Flatch an alcoholic father of one of the members of the team who becomes the assistant coach, and of star player Jimmy Chipwood. The movie is based upon the small school of Milan winning the 1954 state championship. In the movie the championship game is played at where else – Butler University!

When times are difficult we often look to an underdog for inspiration and the Depression of the 1930’s was just such a time and two movies Cinderella Man and Seabiscuit tell us a story about a boxer and a horse that gave this country hope. In 1935, when this country was still in the grips of the Great Depression, a down-and-out James J. Braddock defeated the heavyweight champion Max Baer in what is perhaps one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. Small, knobby-kneed, who liked to eat and sleep for long periods – Seabiscuit - in many of his early races finished in the back of the pack. With a new and unorthodox trainer and a new jockey Seabiscuit began to win and in 1938 what was then called the "Match of the Century" raced and defeated heavily favorite War Admiral.

The Lenten season is also a time of hope and inspiration; a time of redemption and to give a helping hand to the down-and-out; a time for change and perhaps an unorthodox way of thinking and doing things; and a time to cheer for the underdog.

Hickory!