NCAA Men’s Basketball: The March Madness of it all.
For as long as I can remember, my entire family has watched the NCAA March Madness tournament. All of us kids were raised to be fans of college basketball and participate in bracketology– all thanks to my dad. And I can honestly say it’s a favorite pastime of mine and a tradition I aim to continue in my own family one day.
Growing up we would watch the games and hear my dad’s chants for his home state of Michigan, or the long, detailed orations of why a certain team would be that year’s tournament Cinderella story. As my brother, sister and I got older we started participating in the brackets. Before online tournaments became a thing we used the brackets printed in the newspaper at the start of the tournament every year. Every March we looked forward to getting that newspaper, and delving into some friendly family competition.
Our rivalry soon spread to include another family – a friend of my dad’s and his daughters – so for the past six years we’ve all participated in the March Madness brackets and watched the final game together, awarding the winner a trophy and bragging rights. And we each play our respective parts – I’m the commissioner who puts it all together and organizes the online group. My dad’s friend is the chaser, making sure everyone makes their picks before the first game kicks off. My siblings and the rest of the kids start the trash talking, and my dad just kinda sits back and watches it all unfold.
My dad was actually a part of the tournament (highlighted in blue in the team’s roster photo to the right.) In 1981 he played guard on the Boston College (BC) Eagles. As the Big East champions that year, BC blazed a trail into the NCAA tournament beating out Ball State in the first round, Wake Forest in the second round, and was eventually defeated by Saint Joseph’s in the Sweet Sixteen. (I think watching the tournament every year is a bittersweet memory for him.)
As the years have gone on though, the tournament has certainly gained popularity. It is estimated that $9.2 billion will be wagered on March Madness this year; there are sponsored online bracket competitions; bars and restaurants have NCAA-themed nights and food and drink specials. But my favorite part is the camaraderie.
March Madness is different than the usual televised tournament than say the Super Bowl, the NBA championships or any other national sports team. These college teams are not playing for money, but for the love of the game, and school pride and tradition. That is as real as basketball gets. I used to play basketball on travel teams, AAU, school and rec teams, so I understand the hype and family-like feeling you get when playing on a team. And that’s why it’s so fun to watch these games because the team spirit is so visible.
If you don’t have any plans this Saturday night, tune in and watch the Final Four battle it out for the road to the championship. Villanova takes on Oklahoma first at 6:09 p.m. ET, followed by North Carolina vs. Syracuse. Safe to say my bracket this year was a dud (thanks, Michigan State).
I should’ve listened to my dad’s Cinderella story this year. Go Tar Heels!