|A Basketball, photo courtesy of Peter Griffin, public domain, full online cite below in sources.|
For the past few days, the American sports world's center of gravity has been the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. This tournament has been dubbed, "March Madness." The title comes from the flurry of games played, the last-second heroics, the upsets, the favorites who beat back a challenge from some upstart team and the length of it. (It covers three weeks.) It also is a source of profound interest for many. There are those who love basketball and follow this tournament the way a commodities trader follows the fluctuations in wheat prices. Even those who might only have a fleeting interest in the tournament get involved.
Largely driving this interest is the process of the tournament. The seeding, or selecting of who plays who when and where, separates this sporting event from others. This process is laid out in a bracket. Everyone knows who is in the tourney, who's favored and by how much. Everyone starts out at the same spot, a clean bracket and the chance to predict who will win it all.
Millions of people will fill out brackets, trying to predict who will win. One such prediction is listed below:
|President Obama's picks for the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Public domain claimed, full cite below.|
Yup, that is POTUS' bracket. His bracket is pretty much shot, as is mine. I had our intrastate rival Iowa State making it all the way to the championship game. I still have Wisconsin winning the whole thing, so I suppose there is some potential redemption for me. Oh well, I cannot be too upset with myself as I took all of five minutes to make my picks. I suspect there are other folks who (ahem) have a lot more time and emotion invested in this endeavor.
And this endeavor is not left at home or the sports bar. Oh no, it finds its way into work. I have a link to an article below that discusses the cost of March Madness to the workplace:
"It is an annual tradition that has become woven into the fabric the American workplace and society at large. However, there is a cost in terms of lost wages paid to distracted and unproductive workers, and, this year, the cost could reach as high as $1.9 billion, according to calculations by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc."
Interestingly, this same source does not encourage employers to ban such activity, despite the cost. John Challenger (of the company who is cited in this article, full internet citation below) argues:
“This tournament and the betting and bracket-building that come with it are ingrained in the national fabric. Trying to stop it would be like trying to stop a freight train. When even the president finds time to fill out a bracket, an employer would be hard pressed to come up with a legitimate reason to clamp down on March Madness activities,...”
It is an annual tradition that has become woven into the fabric the American workplace and society at large. However, there is a cost in terms of lost wages paid to distracted and unproductive workers, and, this year, the cost could reach as high as $1.9 billion, according to calculations by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. - See more at: http://www.challengergray.com/press/press-releases/its-march-madness-years-madness-could-cost-19b#sthash.H9oMmbRC.dpufThen there is the pure "fandom" emotion that comes with this tournament. I suspect there are alums from The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) who are catching up after years of lost contact just to talk about their epic victory over Iowa State on Thursday. On the other side of the emotional coin are the fans whose teams lost. I saw a video clip of a member of the Villanova pep band crying as she played for the last time that year. She surely thought there was at least one more road trip in her team's future. Not this year.
It stinks when your team loses. As I watched Iowa lose to a Gonzaga team last evening, I ended up cleaning our bedroom, just so I was not fully focused on the all-but-certain outcome. I do not begrudge the 'Zaga fans or team for their celebration. They are a great team and it is expected that they will win, perhaps even a trip to the promised land that is "The Final Four." Still, it stung to watch my team be eliminated. If you win, you go on. If you lose, you go home. Iowa's going home. Still, I'm proud of the effort these young men and their coaching staff displayed this season.
And there's next season, there is always next season. Well, for most of us at least.
the cost could reach as high as $1.9 billion, according to calculations by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. - See more at: http://www.challengergray.com/press/press-releases/its-march-madness-years-madness-could-cost-19b#sthash.H9oMmbRC.dpuf
On Friday, I found myself in the small Iowa town of Indianola. It was a brief stop, so it was completely by chance I saw the sign below. I happened to be pumping gas across from the park where this sign is located.
|The memorial to the late Chris Street, Indianola, Iowa, photo by J. Berta|
For those of you who do not know who Chris Street was, here is a brief background. He was an incredibly talented basketball player who died tragically in a car accident 1993. I have a couple of links to the story in the sources.
His coach, Dr. Tom Davis, summed up Chris' passing and his legacy this way: "Chris represented all that is good about the Midwest and the state of Iowa. He was open, caring, honest, loving and lived life to the fullest every day.”
It is photos like this that remind me that this tournament is, at the end of the day, a series of games. While some teams are "one and done," the players will get to engage in other pursuits. As much as I am saddened my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes are done this year, I know they will play again. I just wish I could have seen Chris Street play again. Sadly, that is not going to happen.
It kind of puts this subject into perspective, at least for me.
Be well my friends (and go Wisconsin!)
Photo posted above, Peter Griffin, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=63587&picture=basketball-cover