The meaning of March madness

Why do Americans go nuts for this annual basketball competition?

Share
Related Topics

March Madness is not a basketball tournament. It is an event boarding on phenomenon. Across America for four weeks, previously unknown teenagers will become household names, grown men will cry and over $1 Billion in illegal gambling money will change hands. Welcome to the most exciting event in all sport.

I am aware that I hail from America and that I am writing in a country where soccer is king, but there is simply no greater sporting event then the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

I could talk about how basketball is faster paced then soccer, that there is more scoring and all that. However, what truly makes March Madness great goes beyond just the game of basketball itself.

First, there is how it is formulated. The over 300 teams that compete in the NCAA’s Division 1 are narrowed down to 68. 31 teams automatically get in due to winning their conference tournaments while the other 37 are determined by a selection committee that chooses the best teams that did not receive automatic bids. From those 68 a bracket is formed. 68 turns into 64, 64 into 32, 32 into 16 and so on until a champion is crowned.

As soon as the bracket comes out, on which is known Selection Sunday, the obsession begins.

The 68 team field is devoured, dissected and discussed amongst every American sports fan with a pulse.

Who will win the tournament becomes the dominant topic of conversation across the country until the games begin. Here is where things get weird. The excitement surrounding the tournament is as much about correctly picking the outcome of each game as it is about the actual games themselves.

Last year over 6.45 million brackets were submitted to espn.com and that doesn’t even count the number of brackets submitted to other websites as well as the number of separate office pools across the country.

Filling out brackets becomes an addiction, I filled out 5 one year, that can only be satisfied by picking correctly.

However, the ultimate point in filling out a bracket isn’t even about being completely right, the odds of picking every game correctly are 1 in 9.2 quintillion, it’s solely about being more right than your friends.

March Madness provides a delightful reminder that there is no greater satisfaction then looking your friend in the eye after correctly calling a huge upset and smugly saying, “I told you so.”

Once the match ups are over analysed and your picks are made, the games begin.

And once they begin, nothing else matters.

The first round of games starts around noon on Thursday, meaning that a few arrangements have to be made in order to watch them. Sick days are called in, classes are skipped and family member randomly die, all just to catch the first bits of Madness. I remember taking an extremely long bathroom break during one of my classes on the first day of the tournament last year, just to sprint to the local bar across the street to catch the end of one particularly close game that could potentially ruin my bracket.

My decision to cut class probably explains the ridiculousness of March Madness the best. Even though it was just last year, I have no idea who won and I have no idea who played. All I know is that I needed one of the teams to win to salvage my pitiful bracket and there was no way I was going to miss the game. Sacrifices had to be made.

In 10 years of making a bracket I have never won my pool and there is a great chance that I never will. However I, like all Americans, will continue to immerse myself in the Madness because if by some miracle I get the most games right, as the champion lifts the trophy a centre court, I get to feel like I won too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent