March Madness and I have always had a weird relationship. I can remember back to high school where our brackets were, much like fantasy baseball, done entirely on paper with manual tabulations and highlighters and red lines, the 9-by-11-inch pieces of paper being destroyed as the games went on. We’d always try to sneak peaks at games while getting ready for baseball practice as the coaches had a TV in their office and there was a window between said office and the locker room. It was that same window where cut lists would be posted after tryouts, so letting us watch Princeton drop UCLA by two before having to run foul poles was the least they could do.
Since then, however, my feelings on college basketball have been lukewarm at best. Each year, I try to take in a few games as I enjoy the atmosphere college sports tend to provide. Last year, I watched—maybe—three full regular season games and a couple conference tourney games depending on the time and my availability. Once March Madness rolled around, however, I watched no fewer than a dozen games in the first four days, adding more as the tournament went on. When it comes to college sports in general I’m as casual as it gets. I root for the Buckeyes, and the end of that Michigan game was one of the more exhilarating moments of the fall. I was super into men’s basketball during that stretch of play where the Cavaliers were in the lottery as I wanted to be as informed as possible when discussing potential draft selections.
Since then, I’ve literally morphed into that co-worker of yours who takes a bracket, shrugs, and guesses as they write down schools in the subsequent rounds. I don’t base it on colors or mascots—and one could argue that I’d have been better off if I did—but the amount of knowledge I have about the 68 teams selected to compete for the Division I title would rival that of my knowledge surrounding things like Harry Potter and reality television. But come Thursday afternoon, my iPad will be propped up on my desk and the March Madness apps will be loaded and waiting. Men’s college basketball will consume the next several weekends as we look to crown another champion.
If March Madness were a professional sports team, I’d be dubbed fair weather. The big difference, in my estimation, is that I’ll watch, waiting for upsets, soaking in the excitement of kids who play their entire careers (even if said careers span all of a few months) for these very moments. I won’t pretend to know much about any of it, and certainly won’t have a solitary hot take (because “takes” as class of analysis are dumb, don’t forget) but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to get pumped when Middle Tennessee State drops Minnesota in the first round. The fan fare is like none other, and when you factor in the single-elimination nature of the tournament (which hardcore fans hate), it’s that much better. Remember that kid who busted out the Nae Nae after 14-seed Mercer beat Duke back in 2014?
It’s the perfect storm of opportunity and hope and a national stage, and it’s beautiful.
One could argue that the Men’s Division I tournament being dubbed March Madness is the best sports marketing campaign of all time. Sure, folks get together to watch the Super Bowl, but that involves actually leaving your house and occasionally glancing at the television. With March Madness, you literally have individuals who will pay money, fill out a bracket, and never watch a lick of basketball, just waiting for the email updates from their office pool manager to see where they fall, sharing in the office inside jokes because “HA! Can you guys believe Chester from payroll is in first place!? Silly Chester. Guy wouldn’t know a basketball if it smashed him in his face and broke his glasses!” No other sporting event gets this treatment, and it has me hooked every single year.
This week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting:
- “The ’96 Mavs: The Warriors before the Warriors” by Rob Mahoney (Sports Illustrated)
- “How the World’s Heaviest Man Lost it All” by Justin Heckert (GQ)
- “A plane crash, seven broken families, and the town that’s helping them heal” by Matt Norlander (CBS Sports)
- “How UFC’s new stud got his super power” by Brandon Sneed (B/R Mag)
And finally, with March Madness is upon us, it’s bracket challenge time. Those of you who have been around for a while know I’m super active with the local affiliate for Susan G. Komen. For what will be the fourth year, the Associate Council will be running Brackets for the Cure—a purely electronic way for you to help the cause while potentially taking home some nice prizes.
The premise is simple: Donate $20, gain access to the BFtC March Madness bracket challenge hosted by CBS, and win. The first three prizes will total $1,350 with $1,000 going to the winner. We’ve managed to obtain a few local sponsors which will allow us to put 100 percent of entry fees toward fighting breast cancer in Northeastern Ohio. We managed to raise more than $9,000 last year and are hoping to eclipse $10,000 this time around. It’ll take some hard work, but we’re confident in getting there.
Huge thank you to Tucker Ellis for being our presenting sponsor once again. You can enter start the process of entering this pool by clicking the image above or by going to to this page here. If you joined in any of the last two years, you should already have received your invite. Thank you all in advance. Your support is greatly appreciated.