The March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament is a sporting event that transcends sports. What I mean by this is that it’s an event that is so big that it enters the national consciousness of all people, whether they like sports or not.
A lot of people don’t watch sports because they don’t feel any compulsion to support professional athletes. And you can’t really blame them. Once athletes enter sports on a professional level, they begin playing for their career. They are still representing a city and a fan base, but at the end of the day, the first and foremost matter of importance is the bottom line. And that can make them unlikable and unrelatable at times.
But like every human, athletes want to make the most money possible while performing your craft. It’s the nature of life.
But that’s not the case for collegiate athletes. About 99.9% of them won’t go pro, and for them, college ball is the end of the line. Therefore, they’re aren’t playing for money. Because there is no money. Instead, they are playing for their pride, their dignity, their university and for their love of the game. How can anybody not to relate to that?
When they lose a big game, you see one of them break down in tears, and put their jerseys over their heads in utter disappointment. And that’s when you remember that these are 20 and 21-year-old kids that you’re watching perform.
When LeBron James loses a Game 7 of an NBA playoff game — if he ever does again — then he’ll go him to his multi-million dollar mansion and come back next year.
But when the nearly all seniors lose in March Madness, it’s over. You’ve just watched their sporting career come to an end. And those tears are real.
How can you not love the authenticity? The passion and the will to win shows in every minute of every March Madness game, and that’s what makes it a tournament like no other.
And that is the good thing about March Madness. Now for the bad.
Filling out a bracket.
I said earlier that March Madness is one of the rare sporting events that transcends sports. Another reason for that is the betting that comes with it. March Madness and the Superbowl are probably the two events that evoke the most betting, even from people who have no idea what they hell they are doing.
That includes most people — including myself. I am a sports fiend. I watch all major sports religiously, most other sports moderately, and even shitty sports lightly. There’s not a sport in the world that I lack interest in. Except Cricket. That sport sucks.
And yet, as big of a sports fan that I am, I think I’ve met three people in my entire life who actually closely follow college basketball. That’s it. And even those three people will be the first to tell you that trying to accurately pick a 68-team bracket is a near impossibility.
And that’s why you find that the winner of every annual bracket tournament you participate in is your friend’s girlfriend who based her Final Four on what team’s mascots she liked the best.
There are just too many things to consider when it comes to March Madness. First of all, there’s just too many teams. It’s not possible to know enough about every single one to evaluate each one properly. Secondly, everyone gets psyched out by the seedings. They figure they need to pick a certain amount of upsets, that they need to have a certain amount of #1 seeds advance far in the tournament, and so on. That’s why the more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you are to out-think yourself.
It’s extremely frustrating because you can have a flawless bracket through 75 percent of the tournament, but if your selected champion goes down too early, then you’re done. Nothing else matters. Like that Metallica song.
In the end, by filling out a bracket, you’ve only brought anger, disappointment, anxiety, shame and fury into your life. And yet, we do it every year. I hadn’t even filled out a bracket until one hour before the tournament started this year. I was trying to avoid it, and at the last second, I decided that I needed the added drama in my life. March just wouldn’t be the same without it.
And then look what happens. A team like Florida Gulf Coast — who no one had ever heard of — advances to the Sweet 16. A number-one seed in Gonzaga goes down in the 2nd-round. You pick North Carolina State to win your entire bracket, thinking that they are actually the North Carolina Tar Heels. Only in a March Madness pool can we make such radical errors in judgment.
If we made our important life decisions in life in the same ways that we selected our March Madness bracket, our lives would all be completely miserable.
That being said, we can’t live without it. We love the prospect of winning our friends’ money. We love the thrill of finishing in first. We also love the uncertainty. And we certainly love the drama. It’s what makes March Madness so special.
As for me, as long as I finish ahead of all the girls in my bracket pool, then I’m good.
But that will never happen.