Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness: Why Everyone is Going Nuts and Why You Should Too

   On Thursday, like many a guy, I rushed home and flipped on the television the minute I arrived at my house. They had to pull it off, they had to do it. Where’s TBS again? Ok, here it is. Down by four. Three and half minutes to go. Crap.
   Long Beach State was losing to New Mexico, and one of my this-is-why-you-gotta-believe Sweet Sixteen picks was in danger. My projected feel-good story was not carrying out like I had foreseen. Wait, Long Beach has the ball! He has the put-back! It is in!
   Only down by two now. New Mexico, two possessions later, brings the ball across half-court only to have it snatched away by a sneaky 49er! Go go go go go go! Take it all the way! He is in the clear!
   Long Beach slams the ball through the net, and I go absolutely crazy. My sister Sidney sees me freak out and starts freaking out too. I am jumping up and down and screaming and hollering and together we are making all kinds of racket. Long Beach was going to pull it off. The day was won.
   I did not know that Long Beach State even existed until that Monday. Ladies and gentleman, this is March Madness at its finest.
   Unfortunately, the Lobos of New Mexico went on to pull ahead in the closing minute and win, but I was not too upset over it. It would have been a good story, sure, but I still had another 15 teams safe for my Sweet Sixteen. That was two days ago though, and now, the rest of the country is joining me in watching the brackets that we have slaved over crumble before our very eyes.
   But you know what? This is awesome.
   If you did not fill out a bracket this year, or if you are not into sports, you are probably wondering what the big deal is about some dumb old basketball tournament. Well here is what is big about the NCAA tournament. It can single-handedly make anyone totally go crazy about sports for four solid weeks. I never have followed college basketball.  I might watch a few of the top-ranked teams throughout the regular season, and I have my customary two-hour research session the night before the tournament begins, but I am by no means what you would call a college hoops fan.
   And yet, something about this 64-team contest has me cheering for schools I have never even heard of. It is not just me, however. It is everyone from cubicle warriors flipping the coins to make their picks, to the girls who base their picks purely off of uniforms, to fathers who tell their sons they are going to go ahead and check off Kansas over Bucknell the day before the game because there is no way they will lose that one, then the next day they have to face the shame that their grade-schooler had the foresight to call the upset while they were so cocky (Here is looking at you, Pop).
   People follow this tournament because it puts the spotlight on a couple young guys who just want to show the country that they can hang tough with anybody. People follow this tournament because of the stories and the triumphs and the did-you see-what-I-just-saws. People follow this tournament because it has drama and heartbreak, redemption stories and good-over-evil stories, buzzer-beaters and fist pumps. People follow this tournament to take part in a competition that is practically impossible to predict, but even so, it sure is fun to try.
   The thing about March Madness is this: no matter who you are, where you are, or how much hoops you watch, everyone is on the same level when it comes to making picks. Someone out there picked Lehigh over Duke just because they thought the name sounded funny. Someone out there picked Norfolk State over Mizzou simply for the reason that they wanted to respect their alma-mater. It sounds dumb to all of the analysts, but right now these people are making all of the experts look like idiots. You truly never know what will happen, and that is what makes this tournament so special. A daughter has just as much a chance of picking the winners as her father does. Everyone is the same. There are no experts anymore.
   Despite this, we will keep cheering for the Long Beach States and Lehighs of the tournaments, whether they win or lose. Every year somebody emerges from nowhere and drops a bomb, and even if nobody sees them coming, it does not matter. It is fun to make the right picks, and it is fun to potentially win some money, but most of all, the NCAA tournament is just plain fun to watch.
   So if you are still wondering about the Madness of March, if you are still wondering what has fifteen guys huddled around a single smart-phone every day after school, if you are still wondering what can turn somebody from clueless to superfan in a mere moment, just turn on a game. Witness the spectacle. Witness history. Witness sports like you have never seen.
   Before long, you will be freaking out with the rest of us.

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