March Madness: Why So Mad?

If it were December, not many people would care about what schools like Monmouth or Bucknell are doing on the basketball court. So why is it that so many people will be glued to the television set this week to watch teams they may have never heard of play hoops? Some might say because there's money riding on it. But Charles Babb has a different perspective as he says March Madness is the stuff that dreams are made of.

There is no spectacle in college sports quite like that which occurs every March. For weeks on end, the buildup to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is palpable. It starts with a few talking heads on Sportscenter or the local news and builds until it is mandatory office cooler material. Who will get in? Who will be left out? Who has been robbed? Who should send the selection committee not just a birthday present but even a turkey come Thanksgiving?

For one weekend every year, even those who don't like the sport are sucked into the maelstrom. Regular programming is preempted, but ratings shoot through the roof. Regional fans who could care less about other conferences find themselves screaming at the television, pulling with all their might for schools with obscure mascots, located in towns they have never visited or even heard of before that evening's broadcast.

The question is why?

Why has March Madness turned so many fair weather fans of basketball with less than a pedestrian understanding of the game into raving lunatics who camp in front of a big screen with bowls full of heart attack inducing munchies?

Why is it considered arguably the biggest sporting event of the year in the national consciousness?

I think it is about dreams.

We all have them when we are children. We all dream. Some dream of stardom. Others dream of riches. Still others just want to help others and ‘do good.' Fireman, billionaire, doctor, minister, dancer, engineer, teacher – everyone has their dreams.

The problem, of course, is that life intrudes. Too it often crushes our dreams like they were no more than a tin can bouncing along the freeway. We are left in tatters, bathed in disappointment and despair. Like a mindless marionette, we still stumble forward in jerks and stops, but a vital part of who we are – who we were – has died. We are left changed and tragically, frequently cynical or bitter.

March Madness helps us forget the difficulties and disappointments of life – if even for a moment.

That's why we love it so.

At least, that's why I love it.

The truth is, the next best thing to having one's own dream come true is watching another, deserving individual experience their own moment of nirvana.

Part of that is what defines the United States of America. It's why Extreme Makeover Home Edition has been such a breakout hit. It's why video of Jason McElwain's recent basketball feats reduced hardened men to tears. We root for the beloved underdog over the playground bully. We want to see those who have worked hard do well. We want to see someone live their dream. We want to witness their joy and perhaps even live vicariously through that moment.

Every team in the field of 65 is filled with dreamers. They have come to play and if favored by lady luck – win. Certainly not all expect to cut down the nets; some of them have realized their hopes just by stepping on the court for the first time in a regional. Others however expect to win and will accept nothing less than complete victory; this is why they have and will continue to play.

The young collegians take the court with faces seemingly untainted by the world. Many are in fact so young in fact they barely need to shave the peach fuzz from their cherubic cheeks. They give their all as they strive in the arena. Every shot, every rebound, every loose ball is a fight to the death. They hustle and even bleed for 40 minutes and not a moment less. They beat and buffet their bodies, making them their slave – sacrificing skin, and even bone and sinew.

Then the final buzzer sounds.

The game is over and the impossible has happened. The underdog, who wasn't expected to be within 20 points and by rights shouldn't have even been on the same court with the top seeds, has pulled off the upset.

Players stream across the floor with unrestrained joy. They leap into the air or build piles of human bodies that are a mass of arms and legs and nonstop cheering.

They don't yet know just how difficult the daily grind can be, how forty years of work in a factory can rob a person like a long, cold winter. They don't realize how rare and precious these memories they are making will become – nor how often they will think of it and indulge in a quick smile or thought of their coach or teammates. They don't realize yet that this moment will keep them warm and filled when the bitter cold and emptiness of future trials have left them devastated.

Meanwhile, their coaches (many of them who would quietly admit disappointment for being overlooked by major conference schools) suddenly find their dreams have not passed them by at all. They have not only advanced but have taken a measure of revenge. They sink their teeth into their pound of flesh and proudly prove they are not past their prime; they are not in over their head. The experts were wrong. The coaches claim victory and the right to the highest of coaching compliments; they can ‘take theirs and beat yours and take yours and beat theirs.'

Cinderella they call these men who have crashed the ball before the stroke of midnight. Their pumpkin of a program and young men thought only to be mice have morphed into a vehicle drawn by mighty steeds ready to mow down any perceived basketball royalty in their path.

Theirs is not an unrestrained joy but rather a lifting of their soul; for an instant and in an instant – the weight of a hard life, long hours away from their families, and unrealized dreams is pried off their back. They are unburdened and unfettered. They have recaptured their youth; they leap in ecstasy and they drink in the moment.

They know the truth of the Earl of Devon's words all too well, "I expect to pass through this world but once: if therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Do we?

As you kick back your heels and watch the fun of March Madness – drink in the joy and the excitement and yes, even the disappointments. Each tournament is unique. Each edition has its own shining moments. Each has it's unexpected heroes and heartwarming stories, and the players, coaches, reporters, and even the fans – none of us will have a second chance to pass this way again.

 


 

 



Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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There is no spectacle in college sports quite like that which occurs every March. For weeks on end, the buildup to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is palpable. It starts with a few talking heads on Sportscenter or the local news and builds until it is mandatory office cooler material. Who will get in? Who will be left out? Who has been robbed? Who should send the selection committee not just a birthday present but even a turkey come Thanksgiving?

For one weekend every year, even those who don't like the sport are sucked into the maelstrom. Regular programming is preempted, but ratings shoot through the roof. Regional fans who could care less about other conferences find themselves screaming at the television, pulling with all their might for schools with obscure mascots, located in towns they have never visited or even heard of before that evening's broadcast.

The question is why?

Why has March Madness turned so many fair weather fans of basketball with less than a pedestrian understanding of the game into raving lunatics who camp in front of a big screen with bowls full of heart attack inducing munchies?

Why is it considered arguably the biggest sporting event of the year in the national consciousness?

I think it is about dreams.

We all have them when we are children. We all dream. Some dream of stardom. Others dream of riches. Still others just want to help others and ‘do good.' Fireman, billionaire, doctor, minister, dancer, engineer, teacher – everyone has their dreams.

The problem, of course, is that life intrudes. Too it often crushes our dreams like they were no more than a tin can bouncing along the freeway. We are left in tatters, bathed in disappointment and despair. Like a mindless marionette, we still stumble forward in jerks and stops, but a vital part of who we are – who we were – has died. We are left changed and tragically, frequently cynical or bitter.

March Madness helps us forget the difficulties and disappointments of life – if even for a moment.

That's why we love it so.

At least, that's why I love it.

The truth is, the next best thing to having one's own dream come true is watching another, deserving individual experience their own moment of nirvana.

Part of that is what defines the United States of America. It's why Extreme Makeover Home Edition has been such a breakout hit. It's why video of Jason McElwain's recent basketball feats reduced hardened men to tears. We root for the beloved underdog over the playground bully. We want to see those who have worked hard do well. We want to see someone live their dream. We want to witness their joy and perhaps even live vicariously through that moment.

Every team in the field of 65 is filled with dreamers. They have come to play and if favored by lady luck – win. Certainly not all expect to cut down the nets; some of them have realized their hopes just by stepping on the court for the first time in a regional. Others however expect to win and will accept nothing less than complete victory; this is why they have and will continue to play.

The young collegians take the court with faces seemingly untainted by the world. Many are in fact so young in fact they barely need to shave the peach fuzz from their cherubic cheeks. They give their all as they strive in the arena. Every shot, every rebound, every loose ball is a fight to the death. They hustle and even bleed for 40 minutes and not a moment less. They beat and buffet their bodies, making them their slave – sacrificing skin, and even bone and sinew.

Then the final buzzer sounds.

The game is over and the impossible has happened. The underdog, who wasn't expected to be within 20 points and by rights shouldn't have even been on the same court with the top seeds, has pulled off the upset.

Players stream across the floor with unrestrained joy. They leap into the air or build piles of human bodies that are a mass of arms and legs and nonstop cheering.

They don't yet know just how difficult the daily grind can be, how forty years of work in a factory can rob a person like a long, cold winter. They don't realize how rare and precious these memories they are making will become – nor how often they will think of it and indulge in a quick smile or thought of their coach or teammates. They don't realize yet that this moment will keep them warm and filled when the bitter cold and emptiness of future trials have left them devastated.

Meanwhile, their coaches (many of them who would quietly admit disappointment for being overlooked by major conference schools) suddenly find their dreams have not passed them by at all. They have not only advanced but have taken a measure of revenge. They sink their teeth into their pound of flesh and proudly prove they are not past their prime; they are not in over their head. The experts were wrong. The coaches claim victory and the right to the highest of coaching compliments; they can ‘take theirs and beat yours and take yours and beat theirs.'

Cinderella they call these men who have crashed the ball before the stroke of midnight. Their pumpkin of a program and young men thought only to be mice have morphed into a vehicle drawn by mighty steeds ready to mow down any perceived basketball royalty in their path.

Theirs is not an unrestrained joy but rather a lifting of their soul; for an instant and in an instant – the weight of a hard life, long hours away from their families, and unrealized dreams is pried off their back. They are unburdened and unfettered. They have recaptured their youth; they leap in ecstasy and they drink in the moment.

They know the truth of the Earl of Devon's words all too well, "I expect to pass through this world but once: if therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.\"

Do we?

As you kick back your heels and watch the fun of March Madness – drink in the joy and the excitement and yes, even the disappointments. Each tournament is unique. Each edition has its own shining moments. Each has it's unexpected heroes and heartwarming stories, and the players, coaches, reporters, and even the fans – none of us will have a second chance to pass this way again.

 

 

 

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