Why We Love March Madness
What is it exactly that we all love so much about the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament? It has a catchy little nickname in March Madness, but surely that can’t be it. Maybe it’s because the start of the tournament coincides with the start of spring each year, giving hope to those still buried in snow that relief is soon on the way. Or perhaps it’s because it gives us a legitimate excuse (at least in our own minds) to play hooky from work on a random Thursday afternoon. Is it because we get to gamble on sports (with our brackets) without having to be in contact with a bookie or travel to Las Vegas? Or perhaps it’s the possibility of Cinderella emerging from seemingly nowhere, letting us believe once again, albeit it for a few short weeks, in fairy tale endings.
Whatever the reasons are, once the tournament begins each March, millions of eyes across the country are glued to a game that most of us are indifferent to (at best) during the regular season. And that’s a rarity in sports.
I think the truth lies somewhere in a combination of the reasons mentioned above, but also in the fact that March Madness gives us a true “ready-made” sporting event. By that I mean one where there’s no research, homework or season long emotional vesting required. It’s non-stop action as we jump from game to game, and we learn the players and the story lines as the tournament progresses. We follow along as if we’re watching a series on HBO, waiting with anticipation for the next episode to air and build upon the last, beginning with Selection Sunday and climaxing with the cutting of the nets on a Monday night some three weeks later.
In many regards it’s similar to the way the Olympics play out every other year, be it the summer or winter games. Sure there are a few names we’re all familiar with, a Michael Phelps or an Apolo Anton Ohno, but for the most part we learn the back-stories and the names of the athletes as the games move along. It too provides story lines of athletes giving their all for for the love of the game and their country, just as the tournament athletes do for their schools. There are tears of joy and sorrow, and competition and drama that at times are must-watch TV.
The tournament is an excuse to get together with friends, gives us common talking points at work, and concludes with everyone watching the championship this coming Monday night. In a nutshell it’s an event – and events are what drive TV viewership these days. It involves everyone – from the non sports fan that picks bracket “winners” based on the team’s nickname or uniform colors, to the over analyzer who listens to “experts” and crunches numbers for hours lining up his choices.
The bottom line is that March Madness has everything good about sports woven into it’s fabric – and it’s flat out fun to watch. FYI my Final Four are Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and – oops…Louisville, with Wisconsin beating Duke on Monday night – Go Badgers!