Some of my so-called in-depth, thoughtful analysis went out the window during the first full round of play. I had checked and double-checked the RPI ratings, the final 25 top ranked teams and the Vegas betting odds. I tried to separate my head from my heart in the selection process. But then there was the sheer shock factor of upsets, which always puts me in a tail spin. How could Harvard dare to upset New Mexico? The nerve of the Wichita State Shockers knocking off #1 seed Gonzaga at the “Dance.” And who is Florida Gulf Coast? This was not the plan.
It’s March Madness time again and oh boy is it a hoot. Gather around the water cooler; compare your brackets with your friends and co-workers; lament those early, ill-fated bad picks and get the trash talking going. From the middle of March to the second Monday night in April, the national basketball tournament have become an American institution, almost a national holiday (given the lack of productivity in offices across the land, maybe President Obama should declare it a national event. Even non-sports-inclined folks are apt to grab a bracket sheet and fill it out.
Thankfully we have these distractions. Otherwise, it would be harder to swallow the jump in gasoline prices; learning the real facts and taxes about Obamacare; the lack of improvement on the Rockies baseball roster; the dysfunctional Congress and president; stoppage of White House tours due to sequestration; the human slaughter in Syria, Dumervil signing with the Ravens; the challenge to find a job or keep one; making ends meet each month and more. While March Madness will also pass (April 8 is the championship game), it gives millions of Americans an opportunity to dabble in statistics, odds-making, wagers, trash talking, bragging rights for their alma mater or the most correct picks. They can take their minds off the heavy stuff.
Get ready as the field narrows from the original 68 teams for the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four and a National Champion, all coming your way on television. We got hats, T-shirts, plastic or glass mugs, glasses or shot glasses, banners, flags, car flags, decals for your car, decals for your face, decals for your decals and more — all to help spike the national economy. You would not believe the sales tax revenue that cities, counties and states derive from March Madness stuff. And think of all the tourism dollars generated by the rabid fans who travel to the basketball arenas across America to cheer on their teams — air flights, hotel, meals, adult beverages, more beverages, postcards, taxi cabs and more souvenirs.
It is a ready-made package deal for the country — the only economic jump-start that Obama and the Congress overlooked, but it is working and is a non-government-funded, therapeutic prescription from our everyday life. Go Jayhawks!
Bill Christopher is former city manager of Westminster and used to represent District J on the RTD board of directors.