They call it March Madness. That is an overused term. We prefer Positive Insanity. We need to explain. Everybody knows what time of the year it is. It’s the season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament to crown the national champion in college basketball.
The tournament qualifies 68 schools for the NCAA playoffs. It has been growing in popularity. Young and old view the games. They sometimes call it the Big Dance. To qualify and/or be selected is an honor. It brings prestige to a school to be selected. It’s a long haul to the title game.
Why is it so popular? One reason is because it brings together the little guy to play with the big guy. The underdog against the favorite. The history of the tournament has proven that a high percentage record going into the tourney doesn’t mean that much. Upsets are common and certainly welcomed by some of the fans who root for the underdog.
An example was when Duke was upset by Mercer in this tournament. Duke, one of the kings of college basketball, even though it didn’t have the record of other seasons, was favored by a big margin. Little Mercer put the clamps on Duke, 78-71. Not many fans had heard of Mercer. It’s a college in Macon, Georgia. The day after its big victory, by chance, we happened to be speaking to a Mercer guy. We did not know he studied there. He extolled the academic offerings of Mercer, along with its basketball skills. Now we know!
The tournament can be a great advertising tool for a college or university. If a team lasts until the final rounds, publicity abounds. It’s difficult to measure the value of such publicity, but it can be off the wall.
The higher education talent on basketball courts today has never been greater. Even tiny schools can have great players. That’s why the tournament is so interesting. There’s a parity in talent. Basketball has been the salvation for many young men and women, especially the African-Americans who come from substandard environments, including unsettled family circles.
Of note is that viewers develop an opinion about coaches who are seen often on television. They observe mannerisms of the coaches and like or dislike them, or they could care less. Often we hear that they hope so-and-so team loses because they don’t like the coach. Yes, there is unfairness in opinions about coaches.
Fans live and die with baskets made or missed, especially in close games. No writer could come up with better drama than what we witness in some close games. Suspense is created by the action. Now we have reviews of action by officials. That extends games, adds to the suspense. Because the games are much faster, the players much more athletic, officiating is tougher. The officials earn their money!
The NCAA tournament has become the great American diversion. It comes as we are leaving winter and entering spring. It also comes right before our warm weather sports, particularly baseball. It’s a relief from world crises, such as in Ukraine. It’s a relief from world events that draw attention, like the disappearance of the airliner. It also can be a release from the grips of politics, which today seems endless.
We witness the joy of winning. The tears of defeat flow like a torrential storm because in the end only one school can claim the championship. The consolation is the honor of being invited to the Big Dance. It’s what memories are made of. It’s an American event of equal prestige of being an Olympic participant.
For players, it’s a dream come true to make the tournament. For some reason, good teams aren’t that good at tournament time. There are teams that peak at tourney time.
For viewers, it is an exciting time.