My favorite time of the year is finally here. While some prefer the summer months, and others like fall or December, I prefer March for one simple reason: the Madness.
The moment that every basketball and sports fan has been waiting for is upon us. The NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament tips off this week, and fans of college athletics can rejoice in the biggest event of the year.
As a testament to the enormity of the Madness, last year’s revenues were over $1 billion – more than the entirety of the NFL playoffs.
That figure is merely nominal, since everyone knows how big March Madness is. Everyone also knows that the first four days of the tournament in the middle of March are the greatest four days of the year.
An extravaganza of basketball begins this week, as games will be on 24/7 starting today and lasting until Sunday. Legends are made, hearts are crushed and unimaginable stories become reality. During these four days, the first two rounds of the 64-team single-elimination frenzy will take place.
You’ve been filling out NCAA Division I basketball tournament brackets since you’ve been able to write. Fortunes are made and mortgages are lost. Brackets are everything this month, evidenced by the $1 million prize for whoever manages the impossible task of predicting the perfect bracket, the most elusive item in all of athletics. According to Bleacher Report, you have better odds of getting attacked by a shark, struck by lightning or being an NBA player.
The atmosphere of each game is always stunning, and somehow the next game is somehow even better. The ever-amusing David verses Goliath matchups litter the first round.
Yet, more importantly than the revenues, the bets, and the brackets, are the memories of each NCAA tournament. Those last for a lifetime, whether players and fans like it or not.
Kentucky fans still wear shirts that say, “I hate Christian Laettner” across the chest after what became known as “The Shot” made by Duke’s Laettner in the 1992 semifinals to beat the Wildcats by one.
In the category of improbable villains, Michigan’s star Chris Webber is the first that comes to mind. As a member of the iconic Fab 5 Wolverines team in the 1990s, Webber mistakenly called a timeout when his team had none left, which cost Michigan the national championship.
Or if you’re feeling especially nostalgic on this throwback Thursday, another famous improbable villain is Georgetown’s Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, who accidentally passed the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy, helping the Tar Heels seal the 1982 championship.
While the villains are remembered, the heroes are ultimately celebrated. Who can forget the NC State “alley-oop” to win the 1983 national championship against Houston that sent coach Jim Valvano running around the court in shock?
If we’re talking about shock, George Mason’s Cinderella run to the Final Four as an 11 seed definitely comes to mind. As does Mario Chalmers’ game-tying three-pointer with just over two seconds left in regulation. Propelling the Kansas Jayhawks to the championship, shocking not only the then Memphis Tigers coach John Calipari and future NBA MVP Derrick Rose, but a whole nation.
Whether you’re watching to root on the alma mater, to win the bracket pool at work or just out of shear enjoyment; sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacle that is March Madness. That’s what I’ll be doing.