I have a good friend, Caleb, that exposed me to a side of March Madness I previously didn’t know existed. Each year, for the past “many” years, he has taken vacation days at the start of March Madness. Now, for those of you that have no idea what March Madness even is, relax, you are the normal one… not the “Mad” one. The term refers to the NCAA basketball tournament held each year at the end of the regular season during the month of… you guessed it… March. Because it’s a tournament with 68 teams playing in arenas all across the country, it literally is “madness”! Only this madness is the joy of college basketball fans.
Getting back to my friend, who is also an amazing husband and father of 2 young kids… each year he eagerly awaits the beginning of the tournament, sometimes known as the big dance. He’s not the first person I’ve known who looks forward to the tournament, but he is the first I’ve known to take time off of work each year to watch it. But wait… he also sets up multiple screens in his house so he can watch all the different games that are going on simultaneously! I’m guessing that’s why they call this March “Madness”!!! Just kidding… I love my friend.
But it got me thinking about all of this basketball being played, being watched, being bet on… how much, you ask? According Betfirm.com, in NCAA Tournament pools alone, Americans will risk around $3 billion this year! So a lot!
So in the midst of all this madness and entertainment, is there any redeeming value. There certainly is an argument for, “Not enough to justify the hype!” Of course others, like my friend, would vehemently disagree. But I want to offer three things for parents to learn and pass on to their kids from March Madness.
- Never say never! One of the unique aspects of the NCAA tournament is the bracket. A committee of fallible human beings sit down in a room and decide the ranking for the top 68 teams in America. Then based on those rankings, those sixty-eight teams are placed in a bracket, which if you keep winning lands you in the national championship game on April 3rd of this year (ok, so it doesn’t finish in March). There are 4 regions each with a sixteen-team bracket. In round 1, which begins this week, the worst team (based on the rankings) will play the best team in each region. That means a number one ranked team, plays a number sixteen ranked team… a number two ranked team plays a number fifteen ranked team and so on and so forth. Every year, there are major upsets, where a lower ranked team beats it’s higher ranked opponent. True, a 16th seeded team has never beat a number 1 seed… but if the tournament teaches us anything, never say never. It’s just a matter of time. The lesson for my kids is to remind them, people get the rankings wrong all the time. Don’t ever give up just because someone has said you’re a sixteenth seed!
- Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. Every year it seems there will be a team full of talent and hope, eliminated early by a less talented, but scrappy, hard-working club. In a youth culture that gets excited about dunks and cross-overs, make sure you point out to your kids the work ethic of those teams that are defying the odds.
- Athletics should be fun! Don’t take yourself so seriously. When we are discipling young athletes and their families, we will often tell them, “Use athletics, don’t let athletics use you.” The point of that, is to always keep a proper perspective when it comes to sports. Once we over-elevate the importance of throwing a pointy ball while avoiding gargantuan human beings, we lose the enjoyment and can even find ourselves doing things we otherwise wouldn’t. Parents… tell your kids how much you enjoy watching them play. Yes. let athletics grow their character, but don’t lose sight of the shear enjoyment of physical activity and competition.
I’m sure there are other things to be gleaned from March Madness, but for now that will have to wait. I really need to spend some time filling out my NCAA Tournament bracket for our family pool! What do you think? Will this be the year that a number one gets upset in the first round?! Probably not, but I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises to keep my friend Caleb on the edge of his seat.
Does your family watch March Madness? Do you have an NCAA Tournament Bracket family pool?