Thursday marks the day many sports fans, such as myself, wait for all winter.
Sure, NCAA Tournament games began Tuesday evening with the First Four in Dayton. But, the real fun begins Thursday morning.
Welcome to the Big Dance, where sometimes Cinderella stays out past midnight and crashes the party.
Many of you will start the four-day rush of games feeling optimistic about the brackets you’ve filled out, only to crumple them up and toss them into the trash like a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by mid-day Friday.
I asked my dad the other day if he had his bracket filled out yet. His response: “I don’t do brackets anymore. It’s just an exercise of frustration.”
I suspect there’s plenty of people out there who would agree with that assessment.
And while that may be the truth, that’s part of what makes March Madness so fun – and mad.
We wouldn’t have become so enamored with March Madness if it weren’t for the late Jim Valvano running around the court, looking for someone to hug after his North Carolina State University Wolfpack upset top-seeded Houston “Phi Slama Jama” team; or if Bryce Drew hadn’t hit “The Shot” from the wing at the buzzer to lift 13-seed Valparaiso to a stunning upset of 4-seed Ole Miss in the opening round of the 1998 tournament.
Who can forget mid-major darling Butler’s amazing back-to-back runs to the championship game in 2010 and 2011? Gordon Hayward’s buzzer-beater from halfcourt just missed in 2010, which would have given the Bulldogs the ultimate Cinderella story of beating Duke in the championship game.
Then, there was Wichita State’s march to the Final Four in 2013 – another mid-major making unexpected waves in the tournament.
I’ll never forget Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, who had broken his leg from celebrating his team’s conference tournament championship just a week prior, falling off his stool onto the court in 2015 after his son, R.J., hit the game-winning shot in 14-seed Georgia State’s upset of 3-seed Baylor.
And, of course, there’s the magical 15 vs. 2 upsets. There have been eight of those in the history of the tournament – most recently Middle Tennessee State over Michigan State last year.
The point is, the NCAA Tournament is completely unpredictable. And that’s the beauty of it all.
Where would the fun be in everything playing out as we expect it, with the higher seeds winning all their games all the way to the championship?
I used to feverishly check my bracket after each game and sulk anytime I missed one. I still keep a close eye on my bracket and mark each game as it goes final.
But, I don’t let it bother me anymore. I still see those people who act as if they live and die with each game on their bracket sheet.
In my opinion, those people are doing it wrong.
The most enjoyable aspect of March Madness is the experience. Becoming too invested in the result of the game ruins that experience.
If you just sit back and enjoy the games and don’t invest too much in some team winning that you’ve not watched all year up to this point, just because you picked them in your bracket, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience so much more.
That’s when you can truly start to enjoy and appreciate all of the upsets and close games.
Life is similar to the NCAA Tournament in that way. I think sometimes we get too caught up in life going exactly the way we have planned.
In reality, life is totally unpredictable. We never know what is going to happen next.
Stressing constantly over what’s next or why things aren’t going to plan does no one any good.
Life is much more enjoyable once you start to appreciate the whole experience.
Contact the writer:
Twitter – @scottvicker
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