Marching to the Madness

Madness- the state of being mentally ill, especially severely; extremely foolish behavior; a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.

While the moniker March Madness alludes to the chaotic and frenzied activity on the college court, one could argue that the madness defines the fans who follow the NCAA tournament.

Before I lose all of my readers with that previous comment, this is of course assuming I had readers to begin with, I am a fan of the sport and the tournament, and am guilty of everything I am about to say.

$10.4 billion. Billion, see the B? OK, good, so you know that is a lot of money. David Rovell, of ESPN.com, recently tweeted that the American Gaming Association estimates $10.4 billion in overall bets on the NCAA tournament. $10.4 billion being wagered on 18 to 21-year-old college kids. Madness- extremely foolish behavior. Wagering that much money on kids? Yes, that could be described as foolish behavior. The word extremely was used to describe the level of foolishness however, so let’s see if we can get to that extreme level. Of that $10.4 billion, an estimated $295 million will be conducted legally. $295 million of $10.4 billion is a small sliver, which means the rest of that pie is made up of illegal betting. Betting illegally on kids is awfully close to qualifying as extremely foolish behavior.

The $10.4 billion of estimated betting is 13 percent higher than last year. We continue to succumb to the temptations and sins of gambling. Don’t worry, the soapbox is going to stay in storage and the stones will remain in my pocket for I am not without sin. Time and time again, I have placed money on sporting events under the impression that it is a for sure win, only to have my money disappear into the abyss that is the bank accounts of Vegas and online betting sites. We place money on games that we have no control over. Whether the odds are in your favor or not, the never-ending income of Vegas casinos should be evidence that repeat betting rarely produces profit. A synonym of madness is insanity. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Can one say then, that placing more and more money on the NCAA tournament while expecting to make a profit is insane? Casual fans and professional bettors alike place mass amounts of bets on spreads, point totals, and winners of the tournament games. These bets can be so fragile that a single shot can change a winning bet to a losing bet. In a first round game that saw Michigan defeat Oklahoma State 92-91, a meaningless three-point basket did just that. At the buzzer, Michigan’s margin of victory was cut from 4 points to 1 point. The spread was 2.5 points in favor of Michigan, which means those that bet in favor of Michigan winning by more than the spread would have won their bet had the score remained 92-88. If Oklahoma State missed the three-pointer then several people would have won money, instead of losing money. On the flip side, however, those that bet in favor of Oklahoma State losing by less than 2.5 points were thrilled to see the ‘meaningless’ shot go in.

The unique thing about the tournament, and a contributing factor behind the $10.4 billion in bets is the fact that you do not need to be an expert to pick a winner. The allure of the underdog and proof from years past that Cinderella teams exist, make predicting the outcomes of the games a shot in the dark. After the first round of the tournament, less than one percent of the brackets submitted online, remained perfect. After the second round of the tournament, no bracket remained perfect. Common logic would dictate that something that proves difficult to even the experts in the field, should not be attempted by the non-experts, right? As sung by Gary Jules, and made famous by Tears for Fears, it is a very very mad world.

Who can blame us for making these bets though when it elevates the level of entertainment? The games take on more meaning and the investment intensifies. We are entertained by not only the sport, but the idea of making money off of the sport.

*Opens closet door and removes soap box knowing that a promise was made to keep the soapbox in storage. A lack of remorse is ever present on his face as he places one foot on the box followed by the other…mouth begins to open and side rant ensues*

Ah, entertainment. The thirst for entertainment is ever present as the fear of boredom constantly looms over our head. Sure, life is filled with activities and responsibilities that keep us busy. Keeping busy may mean one is able to escape the deathly grips of monotony and dullness, but it is no entertainment. Entertainment equals enjoyment. With the daily rituals of life taking up so much time, and with time being such a precious commodity, why shouldn’t we want to experience amusement and fun whenever possible? This my friends, is no secret. Businesses, corporations, and companies all around the world are selling products that promise entertainment. Of course, not everything that is supposed to entertain us, really lives up to its promise. For this reason, the products, events, and activities that provide entertainment to the masses are able to charge top dollar. Take the movie industry for example, actors and actresses get paid millions of dollars to provide us with entertainment. We pay upwards of $10 for a single movie ticket during matinees times. We go into the theater knowing that movie tickets are overpriced, yet we take out our wallet and feed the beast. Let me give you an example more relatable to this article. The NFL, MLB, and NBA. Athletes are signing absurdly high contracts all for one reason, and one reason only. To provide us with entertainment. We attend sporting events that last only a couple of hours yet are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars. Entertainment is king and we continue to place new jewels in his crown.

*Steps down from soap box. Tips his cap in acknowledgement of those who are still reading. Places soap box back into the closet and continues with article*

Around 70 million brackets have been debated over, with teams being chosen, unchosen, and then chosen again. It is a nationwide phenomenon, people filling out brackets in a frenzied and chaotic manner.  Whether you make your picks based on the mascots, team colors, geographical locations, or stats and facts, Americans from all over the U S of A submit what they hope to be the perfect bracket. Regardless of the purpose of the brackets, for fun, bragging rights and pride, or for the money, people have a reason to tune in and pay attention. People invest in the tournament in some way, shape, or form. Eyes are glued to screens in the form of televisions, computers, or phones. With the first round of the tournament taking place all day on a Thursday and Friday, which are typical work days, people place work and responsibilities on the back burner while they indulge in the insanity the tournament brings.

Millions of employees put their work aside as they look up scores, keep tabs on their brackets, and watch live streams of the games taking place. Access is not only easy but overly tempting. With that being said what is a minute or two here and there? These minutes can easily add up to hours throughout the day. Hours of unproductive labor does not spell success for businesses. Ready for some math?

An estimated 51 million office employees will participate in filling out brackets. The country’s average minimum wage for these office workers is about $25.35. I’ll wait while you multiply those two figures together. Scratch that, Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc. has done the work for us. Based on their figures of 51 million office personnel being paid an average of $25.35 hourly, an estimated $1.3 billion per hour will be handed out to employees participating in tournament festivities. Yes, the $1.3 billion is on a per hour bases, so if employees find themselves stretching one hour into two hours of unproductiveness, then that total will double. That is a lot of money being paid to unproductive employees.

We are all mad, we are all insane in our own ways. Heck, who wants to be normal anyways.

Who can resist the madness? It is the epitome of sports. It is a high level of competition. It is individuals with varying degrees of talents and skills coming together as a team to out duel the opposition placed in front of them. It is overcoming difficulties and striving to do your best during every second of action. If you are successful, you are rewarded. If you are not successful, then you have to deal with the failure. It is a representation of life. And above all else, it is entertaining.







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