March Madness: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Marco RomanellCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2009

March Madness is in full swing once again, providing excitement to sports fans.

In March of 2006, everyone—even those with no affiliation to the school—became fans of George Mason.

Last year, everyone was introduced to a small academic school in North Carolina and their sweet shooting guard who was previously known as Del Curry’s son.

These two stories are what makes “March Madness” great and what makes it—in my opinion—the most wonderful time of the sporting year.

College athletes do not get paid to play; rather, they play for the love of the game. While some do make it to the pro ranks and make millions of dollars, most finish their basketball career in college.

Thanks to a new rule instituted by the NBA, high school players have to attend college, even if it is for only one year, which gives college hoops fans a chance to see some great players. How exciting would the NCAA Tournament have been if LeBron and Kobe had been forced to go to college?  

College basketball is all about enthusiasm and playing for the name on the front of your jersey rather then the back. It provides something “pure” about sports and the raw emotion of the players is what captivates sports fans everywhere. 

It levels the playing field for the underdog and gives them the same chance of winning as the big time schools. While the NBA athletes are considered “the best of the best” who play the “best brand of basketball”, many fans support college basketball more so the NBA.  

The “one and done” aspect of the tournament is what makes it more intriguing then any other postseason in any other sport.

Let’s leave the college to pro comparison out of things for now and compare the post seasons of College Football and College Basketball. Top-tier college football has yet to adapt a playoff system; instead, they believe that the playoff system “downgrades” what a team does in the regular season.

Let's look at a team like Utah. They went undefeated, made a BCS Bowl, beat a team from the best conference in the country who was ranked number one pretty much the whole season.

What was the Utes' reward for this? A number-three ranking in the final poll and no chance of playing for a national title that they so rightly deserved.

College football is all about money, of which the players see none, and that is why they will never develop a playoff system. There are many other excuses that  football "purists" give for not wanting a playoff, and while they are sitting there counting their money, they are cheating fans out of excitement and memorable stories.

There is no denying that the NCAA tournament does create revenue for Universities and television stations, but that is not the sole reasoning for putting on the tournament. There are three times as many Division I basketball teams as there are BCS football teams, but thanks to a playoff system every single one of these teams has a chance to play for a national title—and that is what intrigues fans everywhere.

My alma mater, Towson University, finished the regular season 11-21; however they made it all the way to the semifinals of their conference tournament and were in the game the whole way before finally losing. I was on the edge of my seat every minute and was clinging to the idea of the fact that there was a chance—albeit slight—that my school could make the “Big Dance”.

Other students and alumni everywhere were undoubtedly feeling the exact same way as me, a feeling that words can not describe and one people will remember for the rest of their lives.

The NCAA tournament finished second in the ratings behind the Super Bowl and above all of the other season postseasons. I think the “one and done” type of playoffs, such as those in the NFL and college basketball, provide the most excitement and get the highest ratings because of that.

I know the NFL is the ratings “king” and that there are more football fans then any other sport.  However, I believe the whole playoffs, excluding the Super Bowl, are not as exciting as the NCAA tournament. While there are “upsets” and parity in the NFL, it is nothing compared to those found in the NCAA tournament.

A salary cap and draft gives every team in the NFL the same chance to compete with each other. Some do have more money but they can control how much they spend and who they choose to bring into their team—something that can not be the said for all the colleges who compete in basketball.

The NFL playoffs are exciting and I did watch every minute and every snap, but the “stories” and raw emotions of the fans and players is what makes the NCAA tournament the best time of the year.

Many people who are not athletes feel that they can relate with the college kids more so then the pro athletes. Despite them playing on the Division I level, they are playing for the same reason that the average person plays pick up sports with their friends—for fun. They get no bonus for making the playoffs, being an All-Star or get no money to play.

This is something many fans find to be refreshing. I am not taking anything away from pro athletes, I believe they deserve every cent that they get and I am a huge fan of all professional sports. There is just something “pure” and “innocent” about college basketball that is what makes it so exciting.

Pro athletes, for the most part, are men. College athletes are kids. Stephen Curry was 19 years old last year and was playing at the highest level of his sport, for the sheer enjoyment of it.

What were you doing when you were 19?

I know that there are young players in all professional sports, but the fact that you make millions of dollars takes your innocence away. These kids are just another “student” on their campus. They attend the same classes, eat at the same places and live in the same dorms as everyone else at the school. People can relate to them, and that is what makes watching them so exciting.

In less then a week, people everywhere will be filling out brackets and writing in the names of teams they have never heard of and have no affiliation with. Those people will then become fans of those schools and the players who represent them.

We will undoubtedly be introduced to a player or school that we never knew existed. They will provide us with joy and excitement and we will be on the same “emotional roller coaster” as they are.

People everywhere will become a part “of the madness” whether their school is in it or not. Where else can fans of Duke and North Carolina, Texas and Okalahoma and Louisville and Kentucky all become fans of a small academic school in North Carolina?

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.