It’s March Madness time and let’s all participate in some illegal gambling!
I kid, of course. Even I fill out a bracket, only to watch it be cut up into little pieces through the first weekend. The NCAA Tournament is the most unpredictable of sports events, and that’s part of what makes it so great.
I can think of no other sporting event that has so much on the line with each game – and with so much unpredictability. When filling out a March Madness bracket, you have about as much as chance of winning your pool by choosing by favorite team colors than actually studying the analytics.
There are reasons why the NBA, MLB and NHL have seven-game series, in order to ensure the best teams advance. There are less teams than are in the NCAA Tournament, so a lengthy playoffs brings more viewers (read: cash) than if they had one-and-done games like what March Madness brings.
But I guess that’s the point. I’m not naïve to the financial implications of how the NCAA runs its tournament. Nor am I blind to the fact that expanding the field years ago was less an act of inclusion than introducing more games (and, therefore, more viewers).
What makes March Madness great.
But March Madness is built on the true greatness of sports, and why so many of us love them. Sports have winners and losers, and the more that’s on the line with each event, the better. There are no “yeah, but” that gives an NBA fan the opportunity to overcome a Game 1 loss.
You either win or you lose. It’s Darwinism personified. It’s why, some day, we are going to see a No. 16 seed topple a No. 1 seed. It’s why we see a George Mason (a tiny school in Virginia) make it to the Final Four, like it did in 2006. Or Villanova or NC State, both lower seeds, win it all.
You can’t predict. Therefore, it feels honest.
There is a lot that is wrong with college sports and you can make the argument that much of it is corrupt. But March Madness grips our nation because it is the epitome of what we cherish about sport: That it’s unpredictable, exciting and it even makes experts and fans look foolish.