In this highly individualized and divided nation of ours there are few events or situations that tend to unify or at least create a fleeting sense of togetherness- perhaps a presidential election, the Superbowl and oh yes there is American Idol. But one of the more unusual national events is March Madness, the quest for the holy grail of college basketball.
In an unexpected twist in our household my wife has become part of the maddening crowd. She has become the resident bracketologist. She is not alone as millions of Americans have already filled out their brackets (for the uninitiated, brackets are regional alignments of the competing teams) trying to divine which of 64 college basketball teams will survive tension-filled games to become the national champion. Also in the American tradition my wife plunked down $ 5 ( for entertainment purposes only) with the chance of walking away with a cool Ben Franklin should she have the expertise and the luck to pick the winner.
My wife is by nature only an occasional sports fan, but now she watches college basketball with a heartless passion to the point of wishing my alma mater, Marquette, ill as it faced Missouri. She got her wish to my dismay, but half-heartedly apologized knowing full well that she was one step closer on the road to bracketology heaven.
It is said that during March Madness the nation loses about $ 3 billion in lost productivity as workers all over the country spend time filling out their brackets, checking the latest scores and talking around the water cooler about the games where they either scored valuable bracket points or dropped in the bracket standings. From a business standpoint, March Madness is indeed productivity madness.
March Madness brings in millions of dollars in advertising money for CBS and keeps millions of Americans glued to their television sets and their blackberries to see how their brackets are shaping up. But in our family there is one disappointing downside to March Madness. Our elderly aunts and uncle find that their favorite afternoon soap operas are preempted by basketball games, a situation that annoys them to no end.
I guess any event or set of circumstances that brings a nation together, even if it is for a fleeting few weeks, is a positive. But I would have never guessed that my wife would become a trained bracketologist with a killer instinct and an obsession to check on how she is doing in her new found profession.