Last week and this mark two of America’s great national obsessions: baseball’s Opening Day and college basketball’s Final Four. Seasons in North America — and just about everywhere — are marked as much by the hallmarks of sports as by the first days of weather seasons and religious holidays. Most people know that Christmas is on Dec. 25, and most Christians know Easter follows Lent, but they would be hard pressed to tell you when exactly it falls. But the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and the Masters — those are another story. The rise and fall of civilizations would have to be scheduled around these.
Such is the power of competition and sports. Sports can get a black eye across the board — we spend too much time, too much money and too much capital of youth on our international obsession. We sure do. But sports is also a bellwether of social change or, even more importantly, an agent.
Such was the case with the remarkable 1963 basketball team the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. In November, the Ramblers will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
In the 1963 NCAA tournament, the Ramblers faced off against the Maroons (as they were then known) from Mississippi State University. No one would blink today, but then the Ramblers had four African-American starters. Members of the Maroons were all Caucasian and were barred from playing integrated teams. It was a historic meeting.
Reporter Steve Christian talks in Inside Loyola about what has become known as the “Game of Change.” How did the game turn out? Check out the story. It was a remarkable example of sportsmanship on both sides, and a handshake that perhaps changed college basketball for good.
This month also marks the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” (CNS will have a couple of stories about this great moment in history later this week.) It’s good to remember that there were giants of the civil rights era, and sometimes, there were a few college kids from Illinois and Mississippi who changed the world.