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A different kind of March Madness

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In like a lion, out like a lamb, or vice versa. Either way, the month of March serves as a hinge from winter to spring.

Hope springs eternal in our hearts as warm, sunny days become more abundant -- though, to be sure, old man winter has not yet left. He is just taking his good old time meandering down the path toward a long summer of sleep, shrinking smaller and smaller with each passing day.

March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament, serves to further intensify our spring fever. From 68 teams to the Final Four, a kind of madness embraces the country as the king of college basketball is anointed. Both boys and girls basketball champions are crowned at the single A, double A and triple A level in high school this month, too.

But in a much earlier time, a different kind of March madness prevailed. It was during the reign of Julius Caesar over the Holy Roman Empire.

The Ides of March originated from this nascent culture. "Idus" was Latin and simply indicated the day that was the middle of the month. In our culture today, we have "hump day" on Wednesday, indicating that the workweek is half over (assuming your employment is the standard Monday through Friday).

The Romans usually celebrated the Ides with a military parade, honoring Mars, the God of War. Imagine a parade of any sort every hump day, just to indicate the halfway point of the workweek. (No doubt some would be in support of that, with mandatory attendance to get out of the office or school for an hour).

In 44 B.C., a seer foretold of harm to come to the great emperor not later than the Ides of March, specifically March 15 on the Roman calendar. While making his way to the site of his assassination, Caesar allegedly met this seer and said something to the effect of "The Ides of March are here," indicating that life was good, but the seer's prophecy, not so much. The seer allegedly replied, "Aye Caesar, but not gone," indicating that day was not yet done.

The Roman Senate lay in wait at the Theatre of Pompey. Led by Junius Brutus, they had plotted the assassination of their leader. More than <I>2,000<P> years ago, politics were just as bad as they are today. Twenty-three stabs later, Julius Caesar laid dying, and the Holy Roman Empire was in crisis. Shakespeare had the storyline for a new play. The Ides of March are almost upon us. In the august capitals of states and countries, let reason and compromise, not treason and violence, be the order of the day. Except on the basketball court. May the best team win!


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