“April is the cruelest month”. The opening line to The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot.
I had to read and analyze The Wasteland as a senior in high school. It took the better part of a semester to write my report, and in all that time I never realized Eliot was talking about basketball. Or if he wasn’t, he should have been. It fits my mood every April since I became hooked on the Lady Lobos.
The most obvious parallel is the end of the season. Each April, after 30 games—plus or minus a few—a season comes to an end. I pick up my season ticket envelope, turn it upside down, shake it….but no more narrow cardboard pieces fall out. I have punched the last colored circle out of the last parking pass. I shudder a little, knowing it will be almost six months until the first official practice, and another 40 days until the Howl—or whatever the first event to introduce the new team will be. Since in my lifetime as a Lobo fan we have yet to win our last game, it means an excruciating 180+ days of withdrawal will pass with a loss as the most current memory.
The second reason to dread the arrival of April is a time of individual ending. Forget the blooms on the fruit trees, the temperatures rising into the 70s and 80s, basketball April is not rebirth, it is an ending. The seniors walk away, their careers finished too quickly. Emily and Jaisa cannot have played their last game because I know it has not been four years since they arrived. It can’t be more than a couple years since Rick Lines yelled at me for claiming “I saw a recruit in the Davelos Center today. She walked past Jourdan Erskine, and I’d guess she (the recruit) is about 5’11”.” In a few minutes Rick sternly corrected me: “That is my daughter Emily. She is SIX FOOT ONE AND A HALF! In her SOCKS.” How can that be four years ago? Saying good bye to each year’s senior class is always a sad moment. And when it includes someone like Nike, who we only got to treasure for one season, even more so.
However neither of those are the saddest signs of spring. There were inevitably good memories to counterbalance the last loss. There is a certainty that the next season will arrive, and a fanatic is always an optimist–I can easily convince myself the team will go 37-0 next year. And while the calendar pages turned too quickly on the seniors, they did stay their allotted time.
No, the cruelest part of April is that it is the time for too-early departures. Logically I know it will happen each spring. Objectively I know those who leave will be replaced. Unemotionally I know it is necessary. That doesn’t mean I want them to go. More so than with other teams, there is an emotional connection between the Lobo basketball women and the fan base. The players invest in it with their interactions, their smiles, the time they spend after the games with the young fans. And many of the fans reciprocate with a sense that the players are truly part of the bigger communal family.
So when Madi Washington announced today that she will be transferring, it was not a happy moment. I wish her well in whatever her future will be. I will miss her smile, her personality at practices, in games, and on the bench. Yes, I will miss her beautiful left-handed three point shot, and her improved ability to drive to the basket, but the basketball parts will truly be secondary. I hate seeing these people leave when there is still more time for them to play. I know it is selfish. I know it is in their best interest but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a sadness when it happens. The warm spring sunshine is a lie on days like this. Eliot was right.
It is certainly possible Madi may not be the only Lobo underclassmen who will not be back next season. That is what opens space to get a spring signee like Ahlise–and while I am glad Ahlise is on the team, that doesn’t mean I am happy that someone had to leave to get her here. The coaching staff will fill the spot. Whoever it is will be a Lobo—she will become part of the extended pack. But it always comes at a loss.
Live long and prosper, Madi.
Madi played in 60 games in her two seasons with the Lobos. This past season she was second on the team in three point shooting percentage, and would have been second among returning players in minutes played as a Lobo (only AT has a few minutes more game time). She scored 20+ points twice as a freshman and was the first guard off the bench most that year. As a sophomore she started the season again as the first guard off the bench, but lost playing time to Jayden as the season went on.