Gotta love it! So what if the Americans go a bit bananas over basketball this time of year. What’s not to love about basketball ? I am the biggest fan overseas, though I never fill in the NCAA brackets and rarely know who is rated in the Top 20. I have so many favorites; I always pick a winner. I love the Big Ten, naturlich. I love the overdog, like UConn, and the underdog, like Butler. I love all colors! The red and white of Illinois State, the purple and gold of University Wisconsin- Stevens Point (my daughter’s old team,) the orange and blue of Macalester (my son’s team.)

UWSP women made it to the NCAA Elite Eight. ISU Redbirds got knocked out in the N.I.T. semi finals. I joined the millions checking game results on Internet as soon as my feet hit the floor every morning. And if I burn the midnight oil, I can hook up to the game’s live stats or on-line video (seven hour time difference in Switzerland.)

Every year is filled with drama – broken hearted losers who sacrificed just as much as the ecstatic victors. Everyone anticipates beating the odds, knowing on any given day a Cinderella team can upset the shoo in. That is what makes the Big Dance so exciting.

The way I see it everyone is a winner. In 2010 men follow women’s college ball and boys request female hoop stars’ autographs. Families, friends, neighborhoods, cities and states support female athletes in packed arenas. Today little girls grow up dreaming of starring in their own Final Four.

Yet only yesterday society forbid females’ presence on any playing field. The full court game was considered too strenuous until my former ISU coach, Jill Hutchinson’s, dissertation proved a woman’s heart would not explode by playing 5-on-5 basketball, leading to the official rule change in 1970. Girls never got off the bench, until 1972, when Title IX passed requiring equal opportunity – regardless of race or gender – in publicly funded schools. So what if it took another decade until funding caught up. It’s showtime baby!

We have come a long way from a day when women were relegated to sideline because medical professionals maintained playing sports could cause a girl to collapse in the vapors. Every March along with the players of the day, I applaud the pioneers, coaches like Jill Hutchinson, Vivian Stringer, Pat Summitt, who fought so hard for the rights female college athletes enjoy today.

I have a 54-year-old buddy still kickin’ butts 3 on 3 in Boston, a sister making lay ups in Minneapolis, a daughter shooting hoops between her hospital rounds, a niece in college racing across hills in Wisconsin and a niece in high school playing, get this, tackle rugby.

So go purple, go gold, go, red, white, and blue! Go Pointers, go Redbirds, go Scotts. Go fans. Place your bets. Fill your brackets. I’ll put my money down on a sure thing. Everytime. Women. No one should go home feeling defeated. Win or lose today, women will reign on center court again tomorrow. Go girl! Bring it on. March Madness 2011! Gotta love it !