The biggest, longest block party in the country kicks off Thursday and includes 10 days of community gatherings at arenas, sports bars and offices over the next three weeks. Even the prep for this block party is big – ESPN’s James Andrew Miller noted that a million more people had filled out brackets in a couple of days than had signed up for Obamacare since October 1.
The Super Bowl and March Madness are the only two American sports events that bring in over $1 billion.
Because of the unpredictable nature of 63 one-game playoffs featuring guys as young as 18, everyone is close to equal when filling out brackets. I’ve rated the value of every college basketball player from now through the past decade at www.valueaddbasketball.com, cover the sport extensively for Breitbart Sports including giving the reasons for predicting all 63 winners, have been to seven straight tournaments, and once had a lady tell me she had beaten me in a pool because she just knew UConn would win the title because her favorite character was “Yukon” Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The teams, and thus their alumni who gather, are also more equal now due to “one-and-done” rule. If Kentucky’s 5-star players had to stay at least three years, opponents would not have a chance. Now a small school with a couple of experienced, senior guards has a chance against a bunch of much more talented freshman.
Every time a Florida Gulf Coast (15-seed) beats a Georgetown (2-seed), alumni basis from 100 other schools realize that with a couple of more wins they might have a chance the next season. Because running a Division 1 basketball program is so much more feasible than Division 1 football, we now have 351 Division 1 programs who all want to see if the team that won their conference title is good enough to win at the next level.
By contrast, when Auburn played Oregon for the college football title, well under 10 percent of the New York media market watched the game compared to 85 percent of the Birmingham market. Almost everyone has some connection to one of the 68 schools playing this week making it a true universal event.
We used to have to go out of the house with people to be entertained – now kids don’t understand the Cat in the Hat because they’d prefer to play video games whether it is raining outside or not.
We used to be happy when our favorite song came on the local radio station because we knew everyone was hearing it. Now we all choose our own songs and listen to them by ourselves in our headsets. A growing number can even work at home and not even go in the office to meet coworkers.
Sports are becoming the one chance to get together and cheer for a shared cause, and March Madness bonds people. Obviously alums in every region make an effort to connect to watch their school at a site in their region. There are also new bonds with random other people who happen to be cheering for the same team simply because they both put them on the same bracket.
If you ever get a chance to take it to a new level and actually get a hotel on a tournament site, please do it. Each team claims a different hotel, and the electricity of a lobby that players pass through is intense. If your school actually wins a Thursday or Friday game, there is no higher high the next two days while you wait for the second game in the same hotel.
The shared grief of losing bonds as well as the careers of seniors ending.
But even for those who never actually go to a site for games – the cultural experience extends to every corner of the country for the only time all year besides the Super Bowl.