The American economy may be slowly recovering, but I promise you there is zero growth taking place right now. Congress might as well go ahead and declare national holidays for the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament. Don’t act like you actually got anything accomplished at work yesterday. Unless you were waiting tables or bartending, I’m willing to bet you wasted hours of company time glued to a TV while constantly checking and re-checking your pathetic bracket. America’s businesses are coming to a screeching halt and rightly so. The NCAA tournament is the single most captivating sports event we have in this great country.
I love the NFL playoffs, but that’s only a couple games per day at the most. The first and second rounds of March Madness feature four glorious days of 48 games. I can’t even describe how amazing it is to know that I can roll out of bed, flip on some hoops and remain nearly motionless until the sun goes down. I can then repeat that beautiful process for three more days. I’m convinced this is why pizza, beer, and sports bars were invented. I can’t wait for the NHL playoffs, but only a game seven scenario can match the level of drama in the NCAA tournament. A single elimination format where the little guy always has a shot at realizing a dream, upsets reign, and one bad game can send you packing? Brilliance. The Masters is four straight days of unbeatable scenery and shot-making, but there’s no bracket for a golf tournament, no office pool, no opportunity to talk trash to your co-workers. The rest of the globe can have its World Cup; I’ll take these four days of buzzer beaters and last second heroics over 90 minutes of no action, no goals, and fake injuries. And the Olympics? Come on, don’t tell me you really get excited to break down the matchups in ice dancing or call in sick so you can watch equestrian.
We’ve already witnessed what makes the tournament so special… Morehead State is the darling of the dance because we love the underdog in this country. We embrace the David’s and root against the Goliath’s. We love the pure elation on the faces of the players who survive and advance, and in a twisted way, I think we even love the dejection and stunned stares in the eyes of those who know they let it all slip away.
This year’s tournament is less than 48 hours old, and yet we’ve been spoiled with a huge helping of I-can’t-believe-I-just-saw-that moments. Butler got things started, then Morehead State, Kentucky, Temple, and Richmond all provided late-game heroics. You know a sporting event is fantastic when you can’t watch it without making an audible noise. Just try sitting through Thursday’s afternoon games and keeping silent. It was the tournament at its very best.
“One Shining Moment” might be the corniest song ever composed, but what other sporting event has its own anthem? I don’t care how lame the tune is, I can’t resist the urge to belt it out every year.
That song is one small part of the entire March Madness experience, but adding all those small parts together equals perfection. It is the shot that makes you call your buddy across the country to see if he can believe what just happened. It is Gus Johnson of CBS screaming “DAGGERRRR” as the ball swishes through the nylon, and Bill Raftery dropping his patented “Onions!” after an impossible prayer is answered. It is about proving your intellectual superiority over your friends not by book smarts or some deep political discourse but by one sheet of paper. Is there any better feeling than watching that 13 seed take down the 4 seed, knowing you are the only one with the brains and guts to pick it in your bracket? Your pals call you lucky, you consider yourself a genius until later that night you lose half your Final Four in a matter of hours. And maybe that’s the most perfect thing of all about the NCAA tournament. The emotion felt by the players and coaches is truly felt by the fans. Even if your school didn’t make the dance, that bracket transforms you into an Oakland Golden Grizzlies fan for the first and only time in your life. The Super Bowl loses some luster if your team isn’t participating, the Final Four doesn’t.
This might be the one and only thing the NCAA gets right. Let’s hope college football is next.