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Bring on the Madness

Andy Ziccarelli | Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Since we are in college, I think that it is pretty safe to say that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the best days, if not the best day, of the year. What if, however, I could tell you that it gets even better? God has granted us the perfect two-day follow up to the best party day of the year, and it comes in the form of even more energy, adrenaline and excitement than St. Patty’s Day. This event will cause people to skip class for the rest of the week, and for the dedicated students who will actually attend class, their attention will be likely be consumed by it. (As a warning to any professors: if anyone has their laptops open in class on Thursday and Friday, they aren’t taking notes. They aren’t even paying attention to you at all). Many, including myself, would say that these next two days are the best of the entire year. Yes, March Madness has finally arrived.

The NCAA Tournament has universal appeal. People of all ages and walks of life can’t get enough of the three-week basketball extravaganza. It is estimated that approximately $1.8 billion worth of productivity is lost in the American workforce due to workers constantly filling out and checking on their brackets. When I was in high school, we had television monitors in our school cafeteria that played a continuous loop of a slideshow of school announcements all year long. That is, of course, except for the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. On those days, the school would switch the monitors to CBS, allowing students to follow their brackets during their lunch period, and prompting hundreds of “bathroom breaks” from other students who happened to be in class during those times. One time, a teacher of mine got so fed up with the number of students leaving class (there was a big upset brewing), that eventually he just gave up, stopped teaching and flipped on the game to let us watch. It is the only sporting event, and maybe the only event period, that causes that kind of reaction.

What is so appealing about filling out a bracket is the feeling of control that you have over the tournament. Every bracket is a blank canvas, and the person filling it out is the only one pulling the strings. Who cares whether the person made their picks based on detailed research, a gut feeling or which team has a better mascot? (All are valid strategies, by the way.) There is nothing quite like calling a team to pull an upset, and then watching it as it plays out right in front of your eyes. The feeling of satisfaction is immense. Couple that feeling with some competition, and it is easy to see why the tournament is so addicting. The only thing more satisfying than being the only person in the pool to call a darkhorse Sweet 16 team correctly is the joy that you can get from watching a friend’s bracket crumble to pieces, and then laughing at their misfortune.

Beyond filling out brackets, though, the tournament has long been a favorite because of the underdogs. There is something distinctly American about rooting for the underdog; the tough, scrappy team that may not have as much talent as their opponent, but makes up for it in heart. Seeing an underdog win is something that everyone wants because it makes us feel good; we can all identify with them and want to see them overcome their shortcomings to succeed. And every year in the first round, there are teams that seemingly come from out of nowhere to upset the favorites. Most of the time, they win once and are bounced immediately in the next round. Sometimes, though, we find a team like George Mason in 2006, a No. 11 seed that was supposed to lose handily in its first round game but instead won four games in a row to make the Final Four, inspiring a school and the rest of country in the process.

For me, though, the emotion and excitement of the tournament are unparalleled in any other sporting event all year. The kids that play in the tournament want so badly to win, and they will leave everything that they have out on the floor to do so. Every March, we see amazing individual performances and last-second buzzer-beaters. And with those, we see plenty of hugs, tears of joy and beaming smiles, along with the requisite tears of disappointment and heart-breaking faces of sadness from the losers. The look on a players face (and his team’s reaction) after hitting a game-winning shot is one of pure, unadulterated joy, something some profound and so intense, it is hard to find anywhere else.

So, as you nurse your hangover tomorrow morning and wonder if your headache is ever going to go away, just turn on CBS. I think you’ll find the cure for St. Patrick’s Day is a little March Madness.


Andy Ziccarelli is unsure as to whether he will leave his couch between Thursday and Sunday. Probably not. He is a junior majoring in civil engineering and can be reached at aziccare@nd.edu.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.