Why We Love March Madness
It was Friday, March 15 2002, I walked into my house after school just in time to see Terrell Taylor and the 12-seeded Creighton Bluejays celebrating a double overtime buzzer beater. That was the day I vowed not to let a little thing like school to cause me to miss the two days a year where some of the best sports moments happened during the afternoon. Here I am in my mid-twenties and I still try to get a vacation day for at least one of the round of 64 afternoons. It’s not just me either, ‘March Madness’ envelopes our society every year. It penetrates our offices, our schools, and our families. From the brackets we fill out, to the trips to the break room to check on our favorite upset pick, to the ‘water cooler’ talk the next day, it truly is madness all leading up to one shining moment on a Monday night. So what is it about this college basketball’s postseason that doesn’t just catch, but consumes, our attention every March?
When you boil it all down, it’s a completely unpredictable event during which a memorable moment can happen at almost any time. That’s why we watch sports in the first place, isn’t it? That’s why live sports are pulling in such huge TV deals. No one wants to miss these moments as they happen. While some gripe that it’s an imperfect way to determine a champion, the NCAA Tournament provides the perfect concoction of why we love watching sports. Let’s examine why. First, consider when you hear the pro vs. college basketball argument. It inevitably boils down to someone asking “Would you rather watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals or the NCAA Championship?” The fact that you have to specify “Game 7” is telling, because every game in the NCAA Tournament is one and done; each and every game has a “Game 7” mentality. Next, throw in an omnipresent feeling that the unexpected can happen at any time and from the most unlikely of places. A small school engineering school from central Pennsylvania can beat a national powerhouse or a commuter school from the DC area that you’ve never heard of can make a run to the Final Four. America loves an underdog, and especially during the first weekend, it’s easy to have a rooting preference in every game as you wait for a Cinderella story to emerge.
It inevitably boils down to someone asking “Would you rather watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals or the NCAA Championship?”
Don’t like underdog stories? It’s okay because I bet you love having a ‘stake’ in the game. Bracket pools have taken March Madness to a whole new level even the most casual of casual basketball fans partake and now have a reason to watch a few games. And just like Lehigh or George Mason, they have a chance to win. Once you start watch, you’re hooked, because these games are filled with a passion and intensity from the players, the coaches, and the fans that you can’t duplicate. They’re played how we’ve always imagined basketball should be played. Now throw in the sheer quantity of basketball with 48 games being played almost continuously for the first four days of the tournament, it’s not hard to imagine why we circle March on our sports’ calendars every year.
Well, buckle up folks. It’s Selection Sunday and we’ll be brought together yet again as we pour over our brackets and wonder if this is the year we’ll win our office pool, or if our alma mater will finally make a deep run. In between listening to the talking heads, analyzing North Dakota State’s three point percentage, or trying to figure out who Xavier Thames is and if he’s good enough to take San Diego State to Dallas take a step back and soak up the Madness for it minute. It’s magical. And it comes but once a year.