Who is Forrest Clare “Phog” Allen and why did he think that the nation needed a major distraction from work, family and other obligations, three weeks every year?
Mr. Allen was a college basketball coach at the University of Kansas for thirty-seven years. Before he was their coach, he had lettered in basketball for Kansas, playing under the legendary James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Allen is known for bringing basketball to the Olympics as an official sport and for leading the American team to victory in 1952.
Back in 1939, Allen had a brainstorm—there should be a single-elimination tournament of the top college basketball teams around the country, culminating in a national championship game.
And March Madness was born.
Seventy years later this idea has become a national obsession and multimillion dollar industry unto itself. From office pools to Vegas betting, from noisy sports bars to the Oval Office, it seems as if everyone is suffering from the same mania. Have you filled out your brackets? Who will be this year’s Cinderella story? Are your teams still alive?
The NCAA tournament can turn friends and neighbors into bitter rivals. How quickly the North Carolina fan may do battle with his Duke counterpart. Restaurants should have separate settings to keep the Indiana fans from the Purdue fans and rooters of Kentucky apart from those for Louisville. But all share in the passion and excitement of this yearly event.
If you are not a sufferer of March Madness, you could feel very left out. You might have no idea that there are other meanings to the words pod and seed that have nothing to do with gardening. You might think that Survivor producer Mark Burnett was the first to create a Final Four. Your idea of the Big Dance could be the finals of Dancing with the Stars.
It’s best to just admit that the NCAA tournament is as American as apple pie and deficit spending and join in. Pick some teams and follow along. We can go back to work next month. It’s what Phog would want.