Why NCAA March Madness is the Best Sporting

1) Close Games

There’s something about this tournament that brings about the biggest nail biters on television. No matter what round, no matter who’s playing and how good or bad the teams are, the games are super close. The only general exception to this rule is when the #1 seed plays the #16 seed, where it’s men against boys. Anything else is fair game.

2) The Upsets

Nobody wants to see a bunch of teams work their rears off in the regular season and then have it all come to waste with an early-round upset in the Tournament. That would destroy the point of the exciting regular season. However, since they aren’t commonplace, whenever an upset hit’s the Tourney bracket, it’s always thrilling. Seeing a school who hasn’t hit the national sports section or ESPN all season defeat a top-ranked team on a buzzer-beater is as exciting as sports get. Just as exciting as the game, is seeing a team who just pulled off a huge upset celebrating on the court. Makes you want to be there, which is no surprise since each upset represents real sports history.

3) Cinderellas

With upsets come Cinderella stories in the NCAA Tournament. Cinderella teams don’t just upset the one big cat; they continue to play thrilling basketball against college’s best squads. Who can forget when Seton Hall became a household name during the month of March? Or when NC State and Villanova became the biggest stars in college basketball? These are true fairy tales, a bunch of college kids and a coach who never enjoyed stardom before suddenly having bright lights shone upon them.

4) Neutral sites

Call me crazy, but the boring neutral site cities and venues for these games, where half the fans aren’t even supporters of the team playing, make the games that much better. There’s something to be said for a non-rambunctious atmosphere letting the games speak for themselves. In the regular season, when a great play is made, the crowd in the background acts like a sitcom laugh track, reminding us that something exciting just happened. However, keeping in mind that the better TV comedies have no laugh track, a game without total fan support in the background means that, when we see a great play, we stop and realize, “Oh, my God, it didn’t hit me at first, but that was REALLY exciting.” The magic of college basketball is more subtle and less in-your-face in the NCAA Tournament, which respects the intelligence of the common college basketball fan.

5) Boring announcers

Again, call me crazy, but CBS’ bland, unexciting announcers make this tournament that much more special. With boring play-by-play and color commentary, we can concentrate on the game without assistance from the sports media. Again, the game speaks for itself. In the regular season, ESPN hyperactive commentator Dick Vitale goes berserk for each player and team, no matter what they’re doing. It works, and Vitale is great, but there’s something to be said about these CBS guys keeping it low-key in the postseason. Again, after each magical moment, we stop and realize, “My God, that was something unbelievable I just witnessed!” as opposed to an announcer telling us what we just saw was a thrill. It’s more fun to figure it out on your own.

6) Bracket Contests

NCAA bracket contests represent everything sports gambling doesn’t. Sports gambling is illegal, March Madness contests aren’t, and there are reasons for that. NCAA bracket contests are all about equal opportunity. They give anyone who has any interest in college basketball a chance to participate in an important sporting event, whether they’re an avid college basketball encyclopedia of knowledge or just some woman who thinks the Syracuse uniforms are pretty. By entering March Madness selections, anyone can now be part of the college basketball team. Make that part of the “teamS”. Anyone who participates in an NCAA bracket tournament, no matter who their home team is, gets to instantly become a fan of 32 different teams. And, since money and pride are at stake, sometimes the interest in these teams supercedes that of whoever their particular school is that’s in the tournament. You might be watching your Missouri Tigers play a second-round game, but if that game isn’t as important as others on your brackets, then you’ll be spending more time checking the bottom of the screen for scores than you will be watching your team! Even President Obama showed off his March Madness Predictions before turning it in last year. It doesn’t get any purer than having the President of the United States participating in this annual all-American pastime.

7) Weekday afternoon contests

Atypicality in sports is always refreshing. And there’s no better example to an uncommon sighting in the sporting world than major college basketball games being played on a Thursday in the middle of the work and school day. First-round games in the NCAA Tournament are played and televised on weekday mornings and afternoons (Thursday and Friday) when most college basketball fans are at work or in class. Nothing wrong with that! Either you’ve got people taking off work or skipping class for some rare weekday afternoon fun, or you’ve got fans with the jitters all day checking their computers or calling friends for an update and score. It’s just as exciting finding out your school beat Virginia Commonwealth in the first round by 16 points from a passing fan in the office as it would have been sitting through the two-hour contest at a bar. Why? Because it’s an irregular sports fan experience! And you’ll be sure not to miss the game on Saturday!

8) True Amateurship

Yes, there are always suspicions of different schools handing out payments to different players in NCAA basketball, but outside of that, you don’t get a purer form of amateurship in America’s major sports. When watching the NCAA tournament, there is no background talk or thoughts of contracts, steroids, or player/coach feuds. College basketball always involves team play with nothing hanging over players’ or fans’ heads besides the desire to win. Keep in mind that many teams in the Tourney have a player or two who might be headed to the NBA the next season, but you wouldn’t know it as you see them lead their school on the postseason court. March Madness’ environment is so magical that these players are too consumed with the games to be concerned about anything else. That’s good for everyone.