Why March Madness Is “The Godfather” of American Sporting Events

All sports championships are inherently great. It’s the end of the road. For all the marbles. The highest stakes possible. But March Madness is something more. While most playoffs are isolated episodes loosely strung together, the NCAA tournament is a full and rich tapestry. It’s a bigger, better constructed, more complete journey than the others.

To put it another way: March Madness is The Godfather of sporting events. It’s long, epic, and utterly gripping. It’s got a large cast of characters. And it doesn’t always end well for everybody. Perhaps most importantly, like The Godfather, while there are other similar entities out there, none of them are as compelling. The greatness level of the tournament hovers just above the competition.

How the NCAA Tournament Achieves Next-Level Greatness

So what takes March Madness to that next level? Why is it a better, more fulfilling experience than the Olympics or Super Bowl or World Series? What are the keys to its greatness? Here are a few things…

1. It’s Immediately Intense and Immersive

Nothing begins better than March Madness.

The first two days of the tournament are a barrage of basketball that just keeps giving. With multiple games happening at once, the volume is almost manic. The intensity is cranked up from the get-go, captivating viewers for not just hours but days.

On the first four days of the tournament, you are immersed in games. Not just one a day, or even two. On the first two days, you get 16 games per day, many of them taking place simultaneously. On Saturday and Sunday, you get a lesser (yet still robust) 8 games per day. The action, pace, and exposure of the first weekend is amazing and mesmerizing.

Also—whoever came up with the idea of starting the tournament on a Thursday afternoon is a genius. It cuts directly into the work week making the interest, chatter, and desire to watch higher than it would be on a weekend. Many people who wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to the tournament are because of its prominence in the workplace.

2. It’s Consistently Dramatic and Unpredictable

The tournament is unmatched in sports when it comes to the element of surprise.

Last-second shots, the most dramatic of all sports occurrences, happen on a regular basis in the NCAA tournament. That creates so many memorable moments. Probably as many in one year as you’d get in five years of any other sporting event. Even in a “boring” year of the tournament, there are sure to be a handful of upsets, underdogs, and game-winning threes made at the buzzer.

And the surprises aren’t limited to just moments either. Teams from schools you’ve never heard of, like Wichita State and Butler, show up and make a name for themselves. That doesn’t happen in the playoffs for any other sport. But it happens every year in March. And because it’s single elimination, monotony never settles in. Every matchup has a question mark attached to it. Every game is a wildcard.

Surprises also emerge from a character standpoint. Stars like Steph Curry step into the spotlight. Coaches make their careers. Team’s that aren’t supposed to win, win. Team’s that aren’t supposed to lose, lose. The storylines are abundant. The twists unexpected. The overall narrative exhilarating.

3. It’s Uniquely Connective and Involving

The greatest advantage March Madness holds over other sporting events is a series of connected lines that connects us all: The bracket.

For whatever reason, humans love brackets. ESPN estimates Americans will fill out 70 million brackets this year. The bracket is a piece of pop art that gives every person a stake in what happens in the tournament. Putting it together is so much fun; watching it crumble is grueling. But on both fronts you’re invested. More invested than you would be otherwise. 

Because of the bracket, it’s not just a team out there winning or losing; it’s you winning or losing. With 64 teams involved, there’s no way you could be interested in all of them. Because of the bracket, you are. Every game takes on more meaning when you take sides on a piece of paper (or more likely nowadays on a website like Yahoo or CBS Sports).

The bracket is also what makes March Madness one of the most marketing-friendly of all sporting events. Every year, hundreds of companies find creative ways to leverage the bracket for marketing purposes. While the Super Bowl has million-dollar commercials, the tournament has something any small business can use to score points with consumers.

Taken together, the three elements above combine to drive the greatness factor of March Madness ahead of all the other major American sporting events. 

AUTHOR: Shad Connelly
ORIGIN: Communications Director @ MONSTERS Unlimited

If you'd like to follow Shad on Twitter  /  @shadconnelly