Feeding the Madness

My classmate Tala wrote an interesting post on the effectiveness of games like March Madness and bracketology in our obsessive, competitive society.

I’m pretty much the exact opposite of Tala when it comes to March Madness. For about as long as I’ve been able to understand how the NCAA Tournament works, I’ve been filling out at least one bracket every March. The crazy thing is, Tala and I probably have about the same odds of making decent picks and finishing the tournament with a respectable bracket intact.

The true odds of completing a perfect bracket have been debated, with the best possible being somewhere around one in 128 billion. That’s pretty unlikely. To put it in perspective, you’re about 500 times more likely to win the lottery.

So why do we continue to do it? Personally, every year when Selection Sunday rolls around, I take my time filling out a bracket or two, using some sort of nonsensical method to pick certain teams over others, ultimately deciding on a national champion. And every year, I think to myself, ‘I feel good about my picks. This could be the year.’

And usually, less than a day or two after the tournament starts and after a significant amount of frustration, my bracket is ripped to shreds and forgotten. (Thanks for nothing, Iowa State. You were supposed to beat Duke!)

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 5.58.07 PM

That’s my bracket, sitting pretty in eighth place in my pool and in the nation’s 28th percentile. Another year to forget…

I say I won’t now, but I know next year I’ll be filling out yet another bracket, and I know I’ll be experiencing yet another disappointing tournament season. I know it’d be a lot more fun to just watch the tournament and actually enjoy watching Georgia State beat Baylor…(come on, that shot was ridiculous) but no, no thanks. I’ll fill out another bracket.

But why? Like Tala said, completing brackets in March has honestly become a social norm. You’re in the minority if you don’t fill out a bracket, and depending who you hang out with, you might even be ostracized to an extent. If you suffer from FOMO, it’d definitely be pretty tough for you not to fill one out.

Games like bracketology are a perfect example of things that can become viral and catch fire on the internet. Anything that can fuel our competitive nature while also allowing us to engage with things that are happening in the real world will attract us and continue to keep us interested.

As long as the NCAA Tournament is around, you can expect millions and millions of people to continue filling out brackets every year – including me.


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