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When this is all over

| Friday, March 27, 2020

I never played Bookstore Basketball before. I kind of wanted to, but I’m hilariously bad at the sport. I’ll play pickup from time to time, sure — I’d just never subject four other players to being on an actual competitive team with me.

But I do love it. So when my friend Kyle asked me to write a column encouraging students to sign up for the tournament, I gladly told him I would. Kyle is one of the tournament’s commissioners. He’s in charge of setting up brackets, finding sponsors, advertising, things like that. I guess this was going to be one of those advertisements.

If everything had stayed the same — if we were all still on campus, I was going to write all about the Bookstore. I would’ve told you where it is, all its history. I would have let you know that the Guinness Book of World Records determined  Bookstore Basketball is the largest five-on-five tournament in the world and how that alone should make you want to participate. I would have told you about Jumpball,  an amazing organization that teaches at-risk youth in Jamaica valuable lessons through the game of basketball. I would’ve told you all the proceeds from Bookstore go to funding Jumpball.

I would’ve given you a history lesson, told you some of the legendary (his descriptor) stories of Bookstore in my father’s days — way back in the late ’70s. I would’ve told you about my uncle’s team, “Four Cool Guys and John McKelvey,” and how they made it all the way to the finals before losing catastrophically. I would’ve told you about the team of Zahm guys named “Rescheduled,” who made it through three rounds without playing anyone because the opposing team would see their name on the bracket and simply not show up.

I would’ve told you the story of the April 1981 quarterfinal game, in which my dad and his opponent faced off in the middle of one of those classic South Bend spring blizzards on the self-declared “worst day in Bookstore history.” The game was being played on the Stepan courts, already known for their poor quality, and the conditions made it worse. Every dribble was an adventure; crossing the court took as much effort as fording a freezing river. It took them two full hours to get through the game. When they finished, there was over four inches of snow on the ground. And my dad had lost, 21-19. I would’ve told you how much he cared, that 39 years later he still speaks of that loss like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I would have said that you, too, can make memories like this and tell your kids the same exact story every year until you finally get them to play.

I would’ve ended with a link to sign up. I would’ve told you all the deadlines and logistics, and encouraged you one more time to take part in one of Notre Dame’s most storied traditions. I’m not going to do that anymore because, obviously, there’s not going to be any Bookstore Basketball this year. Spring 2020 was cut shorter than any of us could have expected. It’s particularly upsetting as a senior. There are a lot of things I’m going to regret about missing my last two months on campus. I don’t get any more runs around the lakes. No more Decio wraps. Unless you count Zoom, I don’t even get to go to class. And right up there is the fact that I never played Bookstore. It’s too late for me and for the rest of the seniors, but it isn’t too late for all of you.

So when this is all over — and one day, this will all be over — do things differently. Don’t roll your eyes at the line at Starbucks in LaFun. Don’t save that walk around campus for tomorrow or for a day when you’re less busy. Do it then. Go into that weird building you never noticed and have no idea what it’s for, just to check it out. Go back to the dorm as much as you can when you move off campus, even if you have to wait outside for five minutes and knock on the door awkwardly. Wear more blue. Wear more gold.

And play Bookstore. I know I said I never would. I know it’s possible you’re even worse than me. But, the truth is, no one is going to care as much as my dad did. It’s a fun tradition. It’s one of those things that only Notre Dame has, one of those things that makes us, us. It’s another story you can have with your friends, one that’s been going on at campus since the ’70s, and one that you can be part of. If you really, really don’t want to listen to me, and don’t want to play, or can’t, that’s fine. But go to a game or two. Take a walk from your dorm to watch someone you know play. Cheer for them. Smile. Stand a little closer to your friends. Be happy that this is all over. And remember that one day Notre Dame will be too.


Patrick McKelvey splits his time between being a college senior and pretending to be a screenwriter. He majors in American studies and classics, and will be working in market research in New York after graduating. If you can’t find him at the movies, he can be reached for comment at [email protected] or @PatKelves17 on Twitter. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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