Welcome to the Hell that is March Madness
I hate March.
I hate the beginning of allergy season. I hate, as a Catholic, not having meat on Friday for Lent, (although if it’s replaced by fish, I can slightly tolerate it). I hate waiting for baseball to start and having to endure the grueling bleh that is the 3/4 mark of hockey and basketball season, the overdoing of St. Patrick’s Day, where everything is either ridiculously green, puking out alcohol, or both, every Shakespeare nut quoting that famous line in Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March”, the realization that football has been over for a month (don’t even start with me on arena football), and I especially hate March Madness.
Yes, I said it, I really despise the hullabaloo that surrounds the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The time where practically everyone who’s breathing fills out a bracket in the slim hope that they win their office, church or even school pool. Where productivity grinds to a halt because every schlub with a brain has their eyes glued to a television screen or a computer monitor, praying that somehow the team they picked to win wins despite the increasingly obvious possibility that it won’t happen. I hate hearing the word Cinderella mentioned in conversation to the point where I refuse to even watch the Disney movie in March, or any movie associated with the tale. I hate how people suddenly become experts about teams they barely knew about when the season started in the first place. When ESPN and every other major sports network continually puts up college basketball highlights despite the fact that I want to watch a Spring Training game once in a while. And probably my biggest pet peeve of them all, brackets, brackets everywhere, for every inane aspect of life. Last year I remember seeing a meat bracket. All it did was make me irritable and hungry at the same time. A few years back I think there was a tv show bracket. Again, stupid and pointless. You get the point, I hate March Madness.
Besides my vitriolic rant against everything sacred to a March Madness enthusiast, I wanted to put down the five things I hate the most about the tournament and provide reason why I hate them, instead of doing something like this:
So without further delay, here are the five biggest reasons why I hate March Madness:
5. Productivity Declines
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the best worker, or the hardest, unless it’s something that I’m good at or know well. Regardless, one thing that constantly irks me is the stories about the decline in workplace or classroom productivity because of the tournament. Let me provide an example: In my junior year of high school, we were allowed to watch ESPN on tv in the cafeteria, provided we had a free period, or lunch. We were allowed to watch the games on TV only if they didn’t interfere with our class time. Take a wild guess what happens next. Because of what happened, we ended up losing the television and that was that. All because of a few idiots who couldn’t wait to watch a game of basketball. Of course, that wasn’t the only place where it happened. The library was often a hotbed of March Madness viewing. Streaming had gotten a foothold, so people could watch the game on the computers. For someone who had to do a report on, say, an interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne, if you didn’t get a computer early, you were S.O.L. Thankfully, we did have someone who was monitoring the computers, and if they were caught, they were kicked out. Unfortunately, for every one person kicked out, another two would take his place. It was ridiculous, down to the point where they stopped caring and let little viewing parties go on, so long as people were quiet. This was before I had a personal computer which I could get my work done, so I ended up having to do a lot of work at home. You also hear the stories about teachers who end up dropping the lesson plan so that they can watch the tournament with their class. Yeah, that’s nice. Great to know that the salary money that parents payed is going towards a glorified 3 week long viewing party.
What’s even worse is when it happens in the office. Now I don’t work in an office, but I’m sure everyone has heard the stories about workers bringing up streams on their computers, watching the games and then if they sense danger, hastily putting up an email inbox as if they’re trying to avoid watching porn. In fact, when CBS offered their stream last year, they INCLUDED a button that said something along the lines of, “Click in case of boss”. Priorities people, priorities. It got so bad that some offices set up firewalls to try and curb viewing time. At the worst, there is the risk of being fired. Whether it’s for making an illegal pool, streaming the game on your work computer, taunting another worker whose alma mater may have lost, it’s dumb, Imagine coming home and telling your spouse that you lost your job because you were watching college basketball instead of working. Yeah, that’s going to carry over well. What especially annoys me is seeing our president on ESPN filling out his bracket. Whee, so now we know what he thinks. Except here’s the problem. Do you have to make it such a lavish ceremony? Do we really need to see your face on television for the zillionth time filling out your picks? Uh, Isn’t there a little situation going on involving the Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia that needs your attention more than a silly little bracket, or in your case, a really big bracket? Yeah, priorities, Mr. President, priorities. Nice to know that you got Michigan-Wofford and Arizona-Cal Poly right when there’s a plane that’s gone missing and all signs are pointing to it being hijacked. Yeah, I really feel safe now. So that pretty much summarizes productivity decline.
4. It Consumes Everything and Everyone
In the time period that the NCAA tournament is on, probably a good 80% of chatter that I hear involves the words, “basketball”, “tournament” “seed”, or something along the lines. I also here people who I swear are not basketball fans talking as if they are team insiders for their designated pick, girls who I swear couldn’t care less about sports suddenly shouting “Go (insert college name here)” and obviously, pointing to the picture above, the yearly ritual of dressing a statue in a jersey. It’s ridiculous. It’s chintzy, it’s worse than a meme. Tournament fever is arguably one of the worst non-illness epidemics that hits every year. I’m surprised no one has died from it, although last year, when Ohio State advanced to the next round, I was mobbed by my overzealous Ohio State fan friend, who nearly broke my glasses and caused me headaches for weeks. If I could compare the whole March Madness phenomena, it probably goes hand in hand with the Hunger Games. However, you aren’t legally obligated to watch it, at least not yet.
3. Hearing the word, “Cinderella”
God help me, if I ever use the word Cinderella to describe a college basketball team outside this article, you have my permission to take me out back and shoot me. The origin of the term is debatable, as there were two big examples that ended up winning the whole thing. There was Texas Western in 1966, who destroyed the reestablished racial lines and shocked the world by beating Kentucky while starting an all-black lineup, and then there’s the more well known North Carolina State team that beat heavily favored Houston. I believe the term first came to college basketball in the NC-State Houston game. NC State was a 6 seed, Houston was a 1. Obviously the shock was that the Wolfpack had beaten a team that had the soon-to-be top pick in the NBA Draft, as well as Clyde Drexler.
Since then, the term has been overused. Look, I don’t necessarily hate the word, but the way that it’s been used. A Cinderella team is a team that’s made it to the final despite the odds against them, like NC State, like Butler, VCU, George Mason, the 1985 Villanova team. Nowadays, when people talk about Cinderellas, they refer to lower seeds that beat higher seeds in one game. I’ll give some credit to Florida Gulf Coast University last year, being the first ever #15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, but good God, Lehigh and Norfolk State in 2012 were not Cinderellas. They beat a 2 seed, which is the second least likely scenario to happen, but then promptly got beaten the next round. If that were a Cinderella metaphor, that would be the pumpkin carriage hitting a pothole en route to the ball, turning everything back to the way it was. Cinderella in rags, horses are mice, you get the picture here. The better term would be “Giant Killer”. This term is especially popular in English football during the FA cup, as there are plenty of lower pyramid teams who manage to stun a higher pyramid team until they inevitably get beaten by someone in the Football Championship or the EPL in the proper rounds. That is, unless you’re Millwall.
Further misuse of the term is derived from broadcasters’ lack of research. When the supposed Cinderella team loses, they often say the team is “turning back into a pumpkin”. Really. I had no idea that Cinderella was a vegetable to begin with. As I recall, the carriage WAS the pumpkin, not Cinderella. Really, read a book or even watch the movie if you have to, just get your facts right. It’s like Katy Perry singing “Dark Horse” with the music video set in Egypt and right out of nowhere, she says “Make me your Aphrodite.” That’s Greek mythology, sweetheart. The Ancient Egyptian goddess of love is Hathor. Again, read a book, don’t make yourself out to be an idiot.
2. The overcoverage
Maybe I’m overreacting a bit here, but when March Madness comes, ESPN and the other major networks find some excuse to put on college basketball highlights. I’m not kidding. Sportsnet does it, CNN and Fox News have done it, it’s hard not to find a channel without going through at least three seconds of college basketball highlights in March. What does bother me though is that ESPN acts as if they are broadcasting the tournament, by showing highlights of every game, and analyzing each game, each team, each player, each meme or Youtube worthy moment to death. When that happens, all other sports are pushed aside. We’re talking baseball, which is usually in the middle of Spring Training, NFL free agency, maybe a few marquee NBA games. It’s incredible. For a network that prides itself on being the Worldwide Leader in Sports, there is a major coverage bias. Might as well change it the the Basketball and everything else network. It’s ridiculous.
1. Brackets, Brackets everywhere.
Of course, what March Madness hate-o-rama would be complete without blasting brackets? Some people do them on paper, others online, heck, some do both. Some do one, some do maybe 30. And what for? If you get the best bracket in your pool, what do you get aside from a small money pot and the ultimate realization that you probably have no life? Great, you filled out your bracket. Enjoy the Tournament. Great, you got the Final Four all right, your parents must be so proud of you. Great. You got all but maybe 10 games right. You want a cookie? It’s inane, it’s time consuming, it’s just a major bore. I mean really, what are you getting out of it. Your expertise or dumb luck isn’t going to get you a job on ESPN or CBS College Sports now, so why bother? And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk brackets in general during the time of March Madness. It’s not just confined to basketball. Some businesses or people or both make brackets for the most inane things. Meat, TV, Simpsons Characters, girls, men, life, the only thing they could make for a bracket that trumps everything in inaneness is the air molecules you breathe. Brackets are ridiculous and inane and a complete waste of time, and it’s only the fact that we’ve been doing them for so long that makes it more culturally acceptable.
And that concludes my hatred of March Madness. Don’t worry, baseball will be coming back soon.