March Madness Reminds Us Why We Love Sports

Chris Landers, Sports Editor

It’s that time of year again. The snow is beginning to thaw and the calendar has flipped to that most glorious of all sporting months: March.

Yes, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is here once more. There’s a guy named Jimmer, the Buckeyes mean business and, as always, everyone still hates Duke. But none of that matters. The names will change, the Cinderella slipper may fit a different foot, but the excitement remains. The tournament may not be bigger than the Super Bowl, certainly not in television ratings, but it’s still, to my mind, the most important sporting event in America.

Unlike the Super Bowl or any other championship event, March Madness is a three-week extravaganza of sport. There’s something so enthralling about it, an event so vast and diverse it can bring together and entire nation of fans. Every state but Alaska has a Division I men’s basketball team, meaning that everyone, whether in a big city or a small town, has a shot at a title.

And that’s the beauty of this time of year. It’s a storyline that is compelling to just about all of us. It’s why you get so frustrated at that one girl who steals the $50 office pool by using her magical “Which school has a prettier state flower?” method to fill out her bracket. It’s why dozens of co-workers will gather around a computer screen to root for a school like Morehead State, even though they’ll all be wondering what the heck a Morehead is and if there’s actually a state named after it. It’s why businesses are estimated to lose $1.7 billion in productivity during the tournament. There are big public schools and small private schools and match-ups where one school’s head coach earns more than the budget for the other’s entire basketball program, but they all have a shot.

Pro sports leagues today have become star-centric universes, where big markets and the big money they can provide rule the day. This disillusionment has even started to seep into college athletics, as more and more student athletes are under the influence of greedy agents and boosters.

But we still have March Madness, where the players jump around like (gasp) the twenty-year old kids we seem to have forgotten they are. The joy of athletics abounds for those few weeks, and for that magical time none of it — the money, the fame, playing professionally — matters. The basketball court is the great equalizer, where a tiny school like Northern Colorado gets a chance to make a run at mighty Duke because they love to play the game too, and that’s what counts. Any team, no matter how big it is or where it’s from, has a chance to captivate America.

March Madness comes as close as you can get to perfection in sport because it embodies what we want to believe in as a society. Everyone has a chance, anybody can make anything happen. That’s why you’ll see atheists rooting for Mormon universities and Michiganders pulling for Ohio State, all in the name of their bracket. It reaches us on some deeper level; it transcends the X’s and O’s of any sport.

So sure, more people may watch the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals, but nothing can touch the madness that is the month of March.