March 21, 2014
Although this may be a sad commentary on American life, is there any event that brings us all together more than March Madness, or for the more formal among you, the NCAA Men’s Collegiate Basketball Championship? Although the Super Bowl is still the king of the single day event, the three weeks of the NCAA provide a common meme for the country for three full weeks. Beginning with the first round games where some school, or two or three, will play David to Ginormous U’s Goliath, to that final Monday evening where some team will climb a Werner ladder—the official ladder of the NCAA tournament—to cut down the nets while CBS plays One Shining Moment in the background, a large swath of the population will breathlessly follow the fates of the Selected 68, Round of 32, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and the Final Four in the hope of winning their $25 office pool. Since the tournament holds our attention like no other event, I think it should be viewed as a role model for up and coming sports—X Games, I’m talking to you—seeking to claim the extended attention of the nation. In other words, why are we so captivated by March Madness?
If you really think about it, the foundation for the success of the tournament is familiarity. Due to a variety of factors: sex, geography and common sense for example, many of us haven’t engaged in activities like football, hockey or riding a skateboard down a 30 foot ramp, but we’ve all shot hoops. Whether you liked it or not, if you ever laced up a pair of tennis shoes and donned a gym uniform you “played” basketball at some point in life. Thus, the majority of the country is familiar with the game, no matter how painful the memories.
Every body gets to participate. I don’t know who came up with the idea for printing those blank brackets, but is genius too strong a term to use to describe the idea? Not only does this give everyone something to do before the first dunk has even been thrown down, but it provides a reason to follow the results through the entire three week period even if your team—for crying out load—lost to St. Cletus’ College for Wayward Girls in the first round. And is there really anything as egalitarian as “bracketology”? Age, gender and even fanaticism go right out the window when the actual games start being played. How many of you out there have seen all of your careful analysis of things like RPI and Strength of Schedule go down in flames to the woman in the office who made her picks based on the color of each team’s uniforms?
In the dog eat dog world of business, the first two days of the tournament offer everyone an acceptable excuse for missing work. Naturally, certain formalities must be observed. No matter how much you cough, or raspy you make your voice, no one actually believes that you’re home with the flu, but the effort is still expected and appreciated. To call your boss and tell him (or her) that you’re staying home because your alma mater is playing in the Paducah sub-regional is, quite simply, dumb.
The tournament also rekindles the fond memories of those halcyon days of our youthful scholarship. Who among us hasn’t found our thoughts drifting back to the days of keg stands, or shots from around the world—“and now we visit the Greek Isles with a taste of Ouzo”– while watching good old State U. do battle. My marketing guy, for example, tells me that at these times he often finds his mind flooded with remembrances of basking in the warm glow of a burning couch. But then again, he went to Michigan State.
Perhaps the elements that make March Madness so intriguing, won’t translate so well to other sports. I’m not sure I’d want to devote three weeks of my life to watching snow mobile jumping or street luge, and the lack of uniforms in both sports would eliminate a lot of female participation in the whole bracket process. I guess the importance thing that in this particular case, the event transcends the sport and offers a little something for everyone. I know that everyone in the Crosby clan has filled out their brackets and I’m sure you have to. Here’s hoping that your favorite team goes far and that none of your final four picks lose on the first weekend. Oh by the way, my final four picks are:
Baylor (Hey, I’m from Texas)
Texas (Hey, I went to Texas)