by Dave Garner, Program Coordinator for Student Media
The economic impact that athletics plays in providing financial support to institutions across the country is well documented and typically appreciated. When it comes to the NCAA Basketball Tournament specifically, those same economics also affect the professional workplace, just without the same appreciation. There are countless hours collectively spent during the weekday tourney games being non-productive. Many businesses even cite low production levels during tourney time due to constant score-checking. So why does March Madness cause even the most casual sports fan to fill out a bracket and make a few extra trips to the water cooler? Simply put, March Madness has become part of American Culture. This year marks the 77th year of the NCAA Tournament which grew from humble beginnings as an eight team tourney with little media coverage.
There are not many American Sports that can say they compete with the Super Bowl. In fact, there are some sports pundits who even suggest the Big Game has taken a back seat to the Big Dance. While the NFL’s largest attraction still leads in outright viewership, March Madness has steadily closed the revenue gap in recent years while overtaking the NBA and MLB Playoffs.
One aspect of March Madness that contributes to its popularity is consistency. Each year March Madness produces matchups and outcomes that would make Notre Dame’s famous Rudy Ruettiger jealous. From NC State’s improbable championship in 1983 to Villanova’s shocking title upset of Georgetown in 1985, the stories of David beating Goliath are countless in the NCAA men’s basketball tourney. Society loves underdog stories and nothing consistently produces those stories more than March Madness.
The question becomes, who will play the role of Cinderella at this year’s Grand Ball? There are a number of possible candidates to land this role. While a 16 seed has never beaten a number 1, it should be noted that from 2 on down, the expected contenders have often experienced a mighty fall. This kind of guesswork makes predicting March Madness one of the greatest fan challenges in all of sports. In fact, it was recently reported by USA Today that a professor from Duke University said the odds of completing a perfect bracket are 2.4 trillion. According to those odds, a person is more likely to be struck by lightning well over a hundred times in one lifetime than correctly predicting each game of the NCAA Tournament. Staggering.
Even with the odds against us, we as Americans subject ourselves to the madness that has become March Madness. St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but let the Ides of March continue in the form of bracket busting basketball. So stop what you’re doing! Fill out your bracket and let yourself become lost in one of America’s greatest sports traditions