March Madness is All About Hope


Mar 7, 2012; Missoula, MT, USA; The Montana Grizzlies fans storm the court after a game against the Weber State Wildcats during the finals of the 2012 Big Sky Tournament at Adams Center. The Grizzlies would go onto defeat the Wildcats by a final score of 85-66. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

For some, March Madness has arrived.  For others, it has already passed and gone, as some conferences have already had their win-or-go-home tournaments.

But why is this time of year so magical for so many fans, players, and coaches?  What drives people to even coin the phrase, “March Madness”? What drives 350 or so NCAA Div. I schools to delude themselves into thinking they could have that magical run where the end goal is to cut down the nets as the last team standing?  After all, of the 350, only one will be crowned NCAA champion.  Why offer a glimmer of optimism when the odds overwhelmingly support the fact that 349 teams will see their seasons end in tears?

The answer, of course, is hope.

It’s the human affliction that gives us a distorted sense of probabilities, and a false sense of hope.  And it’s not just endemic in the college ranks–or even in Div. I.  There are also the alphabet soup acronyms of other NCAA championships to play for:  Div. II, Div. III, NAIA, junior colleges, as well as high schools all over the country.

Every team has a shot at winning the lottery, even if minuscule, as long as they can put together a magical string of improbable victories.  Perhaps magical is the wrong word–maybe mythical is more appropriate.  Because let’s face it: almost all of these teams have no chance of winning it all.  But that doesn’t deter them for giving every ounce of effort into The Goal.

It is this Goal and Hope that motivates every kid shooting baskets while growing up.  Endless game-winning shots are replayed in countless driveways across America every year.  All dreaming of making that winning shot so the local favorite State School can punch their ticket to the NCAA playoffs.

One could argue Hope is delusional, and a killer of dreams.  But it’s also why they play the games.  Because if your favorite team can just SURVIVE ONE MORE GAME, all is good in the world.  Every time you pass your colleagues’ cubicle filling out brackets, or a local sports bar erupts in joy–or moans in despair, realize that someone’s hopes have either been spared–or eviscerated in a moment of madness.

Hope: the maker of dreams fulfilled, and the taker of dreams dashed.

March Madness is here. I Hope your team survives–at least for one more game.