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March Madness: The Thrill of Competition Drives Us

on April 7 | in Cover, Issue 5, Sports | by | with No Comments

Basketball. We occasionally follow this winter sport, but don’t invest as much time as we hunker down and wait for spring. That is, until March, and the NCAA bracket is revealed. Suddenly, everyone becomes a college hoops expert and Warren Buffett’s lawyers replace all meals with antacids.

It’s hard not to get into the hype.

March Madness has become a national phenomenon exciting the most unlikely of sports fans. It’s hard not to get into the hype. Teams are set up for single game elimination. It’s the truest test of Darwinism—Survival of the Fittest. The better team advances and the loser goes home. It doesn’t matter if your team is first in their region or 12th—in fact, people cheer the Cinderella story, even if it’s a bracket buster. (Well played, SF Austin.)

We love the Big Dance for the same reason people flocked to the coliseum to watch the gladiators fight: it’s entertainment, baby! First and foremost, the teams competing in this event are considered the best programs in the country—athleticism at its finest.


Secondly, the underdog theory: Everyone loves an upset. Watching Coach K’s eyes morph into saucers as the clock ticked away the basketball empire known as Duke was amazing. They lost to Mercer University. Who in the hell has ever heard of Mercer? Rest assured, everyone in a 500-mile radius of Durham, NC knows exactly who they are…now.

The third reason we succumb to a playoff? We love competition. It doesn’t matter who it is. It gets our adrenaline pumping. It unites people under a common cause because the numerical seeding is just that: a number. It’s the performance that matters. A tournament ensures each team has a chance to win—just ask 11th seeded Dayton who made it to the Elite Eight only to lose to top-seeded Florida.

“…not only were they [Harvard] superior academically, but they were the only Ivy League school to make it to the tourney.”

DSC_6969The NCAA basketball tournament opens up dialogue on another level. Off “Grounds” at the University of Virginia, a group of graduate students debated the authenticity of Harvard’s program, arguing that “not only were they [Harvard] superior academically, but they were the only Ivy League school to make it to the tourney.” Seriously, debating the Crimson’s athletic and academic performance when you are in the presence of one of the best rise-to-glory stories in decades in Virginia? At least 1-seed UVa finished as regular season as well as conference champions—another moment in time Coach K would like to erase.  Tony Bennett’s crew went 25-6, 16-2 ACC.  Their defense ranked fifth in the country and 20th on offense, putting them at number 4 in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. The Cavs dominated their opponents in a difficult conference, and went on to the sweet 16, losing to Michigan State 61-59…the furthest Virginia has made it since 1995.

People will continue to attend events in order to witness athletic greatness.

The point is March Madness is about surviving and advancing. People will continue to attend events in order to witness athletic greatness.  There are some that love the game, yet for others it’s the love of competition. We evolve, but the essence of competition thrives in all of us.

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