Ahh, it’s finally arrived…March Madness. In other words, the Christmas, Hannukah, and Bar Mitzvah all rolled into one for college hoops fans. It’s the time of year, where the casual observer becomes a rabid fan, productivity in the office reaches an all-time low, (don’t believe me?) and where even the most intelligent fan has about as much direction as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber.
A look at the first ever NCAA Tournament bracket in 1939.
You know it’s a big deal when certain terms are specifically reserved for March. The Big Dance, On the Bubble, Cinderalla’s, Sweet Sixteen, Final Four, Bracketology, heck, even Joe Lunardi. What exactly does that guy do the rest of the year anyways?
The point is, you usually don’t go around saying the “Big Dance” or similar words, unless it’s the real thing. It’s kind of like the unwritten sacred code for the NCAA Tournament. And kids, no matter how special your eighth grade league championship is, no, it is not considered the Big Dance.
This year marks the 74th year that the madness of the Division 1A basketball has swept the country. Now, it wasn’t always this big or complicated back in 1939. The first ever NCAA tournament had 8 teams and 8 games to decide the National Champion.
The East Region winner, the Ohio State Buckeyes, met up with the West champ, Oregon Ducks, to determine the first ever National Champion. Buckeye coach Harold Olsen fielded a strong team, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Ducks and they fell 46-33. Buckeye Jimmy Hull was even named the tournament Most Outstanding Player. But little did they know what they started on that cool spring day on March 27, 1939.
They sparked a phenomenon each March that has swept the nation ever since. While the games were still special, the bracket sensation didn’t really come into play until the early 80′s when the tournament expanded to 40 teams and four regions that progressed like we know it today.
But why has our culture come to love something so unpredictable and almost overly publicized? I think it’s the result of several things. Ever since Bible times, society has loved the underdog or a true comeback story. From David and Goliath to the American Revolution, (Murica!) our history has been formed by people overcoming insurmountable odds.
Gordon Hayward led small Butler University to the NCAA Championship in 2010, but this shot didn’t fall and the Bulldogs fell to Duke 61-59.
Some of the most iconic movies of our time have revolved around these themes…from nothing to something. Braveheart, The Patriot, Rocky, Hoosiers. You need fired up…watch this.
If you don’t feel something after watching those films, then well, check your pulse. But that’s just it. Why do we love to see a hero or underdog succeed? I think inside everyone of us, we know and recognize our flaws, weaknesses and frailty as people. So when we see other people overcome their obstacles, in life or on the field of play, we stand up and cheer.
Everyone loves a good stage and a good story. And that’s exactly what March Madness provides. Everything from the David’s and Goliath’s, to the pulsating victories and defeats.
You wonder why we can’t get enough of March Madness, we’ve been watching it play out the last two thousand years. Sometimes it only takes a round ball and a basket to spark a new tale and live out a new dream.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the best drama in sports, set to hit a home theater near you March 21st. Sit back and enjoy, and root for something bigger than yourself.