It’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas, though the fact that some people already had their brackets up the day after Valentines’ Day is disgusting.
Of course, I am talking about March Madness, the greatest of all the NCAA championship tournaments. Now, you may be wondering why someone who is not the biggest college basketball fan (I have lived in North Carolina for 21 years and still can’t bring myself to root for UNC or Duke.) thinks March Madness is the best college tournament.
I think the answer is very simple: March Madness allows for the children in all of us to experience the sensation of being in a fairy tale.
Now there may be some macho men reading this column who would blatantly disagree, but deep down they know, as kids, they enjoyed at least one of the Disney movies.
March Madness, just like most fairytales, establishes its allure with the gravity of the predicament.
For the mid-major conferences, the height of winning the national championship is quite daunting. For a mid-major to even reach the championship game, it would have to win 80 percent of its regular season games, win the conference championship tournament and win five games against five teams from the top 68 teams in America.
Much like fairytales, the task often requires a little magic.
Secondly, the selection process is intriguing.
Though there will always be arguments about which teams deserve to be there and which teams do not, March Madness is its own club and gets to decide who gets through the door.
Luckily, for those mid-major teams, this particular club sends out free tickets, almost like a promotion. All you have to do is win your conference’s championship tournament. It’s like when the messenger from the king comes out to invite the evil stepmother (Duke) to the ball, and for sheer numbers’ sake, Cinderella gets to come along as well.
However, not everyone is let in, which makes it even more alluring. If you don’t think exclusivity is alluring to most people, then I think you may want to be more observant.
Thirdly, March Madness allows for the fan, within the month of March, to experience this fairytale in the making all at once.
In the first two rounds, the hero/heroine emerges. Immediately, the transformation begins.
It no longer matters that they are from a conference from which I cannot name another team or that their gym only holds 3,000 seats. It doesn’t matter that their only big win of the season came against Texas A&M or Oregon or some other we-only-really-care-about-football school.
For just a moment, Cinderella teams put on their best gowns and dance with America.
Call it foolish hyperbole or whatever you want, but it’s true. We become a prince searching for just that right gal, and as they win more and more games, America falls more and more in love. By the time they get to the final game, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose, it would seem that America was fated to love them.
Yet, in my life time, I have yet to see Cinderella truly win the prince.
As of late, it always seems like at the last moment (Butler twice, Memphis, VCA, George Mason, etc.) the veil is lifted, the dress is torn and the glass slipper is left on the hardwood floor.
But the beauty of the tournament is that maybe this is the year—finally the year—that America finds the team which fits that glass slipper just right. Perhaps this is the year that America finally gets to finish that fairytale. Perhaps this is the year that the dance doesn’t end at midnight.
I, like the rest of America, am getting ready to dance. I’m looking for that team, that magic, that perfect moment.
It’s that time of year again.