By Jared Brehm | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the sporting world, the month of March is generally a time of frustration, dream shattering, bracket busting upsets that leave viewers yelling at the television and wondering why they picked that number 2 seed to be in their Final Four. But how did March Madness get to this point of metal breakdowns over which bracket to pick or binge watching basketball for 4 weeks straight? The answer is somewhat complex yet simple; we love sports as a whole and are a nation that has become a hub for multiple major sport platforms, especially at the college level.
March Madness was not always the most anticipated event or favorite time of the year like it is today; in fact the round of 68 was more like the Elite 8. It started what we now considered March Madness in 1939. However there were only eight teams in the tournament, the winner being the Oregon Ducks, eventually morphing into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. As the teams in the tournament grew, so did the madness of college basketball, thanks in large part to major upsets such as North Carolina States magical run to win the 1984 Championship, as well as legendary winning streaks like UCLA’s coach John Wooden’s historical 10 championships in 12 years. Fans desire for a tournament that pinned the best teams in college basketball against each other with a one and done system only created more excitement and gave students, families, and alma maters something to get excited about.
A fast forward to today’s March Madness and the reach of popularity has a broader cast and is becoming a global event. With apps that allow people to track their picks and watch games on the go, the accessibility is much easier for even the occasional fan to become hooked. The reason for this likability of March Madness boils down to a few key factors.
One, the availability and understanding of the game is easy for audiences to grasp. Compared to other sports like tennis or golf, college basketball is widely understood by many, and even if people don’t know the rules per say, they can generally understand that if a team is a 16 seed and is playing the number one seed, they know who will win. Also, the fast paced scoring and time it takes to generally play a college basketball game is quicker than NBA games, and the talent is mostly even with some teams having a better crop of talent some years than others.
Second, the atmosphere and common knowledge of March Madness in our culture is understood by most people as a relateable topic or event. For instance, there are die-hard fans of NFL and MLB teams out there that will still fill out brackets and don’t go to work even if they don’t have a particular team in the hunt or alumni in the tournament. Office brackets have become a popular way for co-workers to place bets on their brackets even if some may not be major sports fans per say. It’s the common knowledge of the subject and entertaining atmosphere that March Madness presents to people that says have a good time for the next month and even if you don’t have a horse in the race you can still cheer for whichever team you choose for whatever reason.
Third, the upsets are a major force that drives people to March Madness, mainly because it happens nearly every year and it’s a story line that has audiences, sports fans or not captivated. For example, this year’s tournament, the first round featured number 3 seed Baylor vs. 14 seed Georgia State. The overwhelming favorite is Baylor for a few reasons. One because they are a power five conference team that has been tested and proven themselves, and two, who is Georgia State?? Turns out a last second 3 point shot by the coach’s son for Georgia State to win the game puts all the accomplishments of Baylor as the better team at bay and the story line of the massive upset blows up in everyone’s face, including the majority of peoples brackets who thought they were college basketball experts. The point being, upsets are a great story line, and the idea of rooting for the underdog against the big bad powerhouse team is something that non fans and fans alike support.
Finally, the idea of filling out your own bracket and thinking to yourself that you have it all figured out only to watch it be destroyed by some small team from the middle of nowhere conference take down the Villanova Wildcats. It’s become so popular that the President of the United States fills out a men’s and women’s March Madness Bracket every year, and people compare their picks against his. But where did filling out brackets come from and whose brilliant idea was it anyway? Reality is no one knows who started the first bracket, but a generally consensus is it started as a gambling method in small bars in Staten Island in the early 1970’s. In 2013, March Madness brackets filled out exceed over 60 million and the number has increased every year, thanks in large part to more online sites such as ESPN and CBS allowing more brackets to be filled out than in years prior. But while the brackets are intriguing to most people it’s the idea of guessing all the correct picks and has a sense of satisfactory, much like winning the lottery. However, you might as well play the lottery than fill out a bracket considering you are more likely to win it than fill out a perfect bracket.
So why do we love March Madness? Because it’s a time of year when football is nonexistent, baseball is still a spring chicken, and quite frankly having the freedom to root for whoever you want and rub your better bracket in your friends face, only to watch your bracket be busted by Georgia State and UAB is an emotional roller coaster of fun and frustration time. But don’t worry you can now fill out brackets after the first two rounds to try and get a perfect “second chance” bracket correct, via ESPN and other tournament challenge sites. And for the non-sports fan that may not understand what the hype is about, try it, even rocket scientists can’t predict the winners each year so trust me you have a chance, and maybe you just might find yourself rooting for that upset next March and become part of the Madness.