An Ode to March Madness: Why the NCAA Tournament Is So FunMarch 17, 2008
Put on your shoes, it's time to dance.
Everyone loves this time of year, as winter turns to spring and we all indulge ourselves in the madness that is the NCAA Tournament.
This is the month when your television is primarily on CBS as you get your first glance at the bracket. You flip over to ESPN to get information on what teams to pick. You hear Dick Vitale sing the praises of North Carolina and Duke. You hear other analysts making ridiculous picks and you laugh at their stupidity.
And of course you watch the show in its entirety because you want to win your pool.
You wake up on Monday morning and open up the sports section of the New York Times and realize that there is a bracket to be filled out and you make picks based on team names and “eeny-meenie-miny-mo.”
Regardless of whether you follow college basketball religiously or only watch the games during March, you fill out a bracket and you join a pool. You don't have to know anything about college basketball to have a shot—and even the most casual fan can enjoy every single tourney game.
In fact, for the next few weeks, from Thursday to Sunday, you don't even need your clicker, because you'll be glued to CBS watching each and every one of your picks.
That is why we all love the NCAA Tournament: Every game matters, and every team has a story. In the spirit of the season, here are the best things about “March Madness”...
5. Filling out your bracket
It doesn’t matter if you know anything about any of the teams or if you are a college basketball guru—everyone knows that if one pick goes wrong you can lose your pool instantly. This is why picking teams is so important.
If you're a big-time college basketball fan and you watch the ESPN constantly, you often hear picks from analysts that make you second-guess yourself. Is Memphis really that good? Do I really want UCLA winning it all?
These questions always arise for the educated fan—but in the end, you go with your gut, and that is what makes it so satisfactory when you win your pool.
If you're someone who knows nothing about college basketball, on the other hand, you look up and down the bracket and pick teams based on how the names of the teams sound.
Oral Roberts sounds like a cool school—I guess I’ll pick them. I think Siena sounds pretty neat too, so I got to pick them as well.
No matter how learned you are on the subject of college basketball, you have a chance to win your pool, and that's all that matters.
4. Watching the early round games
Whether you are a high school student bringing in a portable TV to class, or a college student cutting classes to stay in your room to watch, or an adult slacking off at work and watching online...you are watching.
This is because you know that at any point, your team can lose. You have to watch every game, and even if you don't care that much about your bracket, you still have to admire how many games come down to final possessions and last-second shots.
That is the beauty of the tourney: At one point one team can be Britney Spears of the late 90s, looking beautiful and as if they can do no wrong...and all of a sudden the situation can take a complete 180 and they end up as the Brit of the last few years—and their season comes to an abrupt end.
This is why we all watch: to witness the miracles and to live and die with our favorite teams. They don't call it madness for nothing.
3. Comparing your picks to your friends’
Bragging rights mean everything to sports fans. Everyone knows that when you are big fanatic and you are losing to someone who knows about as much as Lindsay Lohan knows about sobriety, it irritates you.
There are always certain people in your pool that you want to do better than, regardless of whether you have a chance to win any of the prizes or not. You never want to be losing to your good pals—and especially not to your girlfriend or boyfriend, who has no got a clue as to why North Carolina and Duke have such a huge rivalry.
You want to be able to say after each weekend that you know more about college basketball than your friends and you love to boast about how you made a risky pick that everyone else questioned and it paid off. It's like betting $1,000 on red 16 and hitting the big payday.
Somehow you just knew that it was going to happen—and that will give you an eternity to rub it in your friends’ faces.
2. Following the Cinderella teams
Every year there is at least one team that pulls off the upset that no one could have foreseen, or a team that makes the unbelievably deep run into the tourney.
People in the sports world like to call it the “George Mason,” as the Patriots made the inconceivable run to the Final Four just a couple years ago.
No matter if they ruin your bracket or beat a big team to spoil someone else’s picks—it is hard for anyone to root against the underdog. There is an aura about these teams that makes you want to root for them—the same feeling that you get when you watch Sean Astin in Rudy or Emilio Estevez yelling “Quack! Quack! Quack!” in The Mighty Ducks.
1. Winning your bracket
Despite all the other feelings experienced during “March Madness,” nothing can surpass taking home the grand prize.
Not only are you rolling in the dead presidents, but you realize that, through all the ups and downs of the tourney, you were the only one who has the satisfaction of knowing that your picks were the best.
You survived the brutal loss of one of your Final Four teams during the first weekend, and made up for it with your sleeper pick that actually made it to the Sweet Sixteen. You are the master of the bracket and everyone else knows it.
And now, for the next year, you own the bragging rights, with the money to prove it—and you anxiously wait for the Earth to circle the Sun again so you can do it all over again.