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Why This 46-Year Old Woman Is Obsessed with March Madness

Every year, there are four days in March that completely distract me from my regular life. On basketball courts all over the country, battles are waged between Davids and Goliaths with lower seeded teams trying to make it to the Big Dance to become Cinderella and I simply cannot get enough. While I have loved playing the game since I was a scrappy guard on my Boardman, Ohio girl’s basketball team, it is the stories that unravel each year during the NCAA tournament that truly teach life lessons for me and millions of others around the country.

For me, the NCAA basketball tournament is the perfect athletic competition that also offers many parallels to life. Yes, the BIG teams from the POWER conferences always end up with the number one seeds and deservedly so. But in no other sport do 64 other teams get an opportunity to live a dream and vie for a championship on an even playing field. And in no other sports competition is the gauntlet as difficult for those high seeds which is why I think using the word “survive” in the favored March phrase “survive and advance” is so fitting.

My husband and I own our own digital marketing and website development company and are about to celebrate our 25th year in business. Yes, I said 25 years…in business…with my husband…24/7 (we actually get along extremely well and are great partners). We can relate to being the underdog, trying to “survive and advance” ourselves some years, and finally becoming Cinderella and making it to the Big Dance in 2016 when we were recognized as the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.

But back to basketball…

The Opening Rounds

The first two days of the tournament are certainly my favorite…double digit seeds are often very good basketball teams, but from smaller conferences with, supposedly, less demanding schedules. They often have something to prove…kids who were passed over by the big schools finally get a shot to show the world what they’ve got. These are my favorite teams, of course, because they are most like me. True underdogs with less talent but tons of heart!

It’s also why my least favorite team in the tournament is usually Kentucky…or other teams like them that are filled with the typical “one and done” players who are logging their single season in the NCAA on the fast pass to the NBA. Are they amazing athletes? – absolutely, but do I enjoy watching them win…absolutely not! I want to see team work. Give me a team of mostly seniors, preferably undersized and usually strong on defense, and I’ll be jumping out of my seat and scaring the dog rooting for them!

Those teams are the ones that remind me that anything is possible with hard work and when you truly love what you do. It is also why my bracket is a hot mess of upsets that usually ends in my swift exit from contention…except that one year that I was on fire! When everyone I knew was trying to figure out why on earth I picked Mercer over Duke and where I got a Mercer foam finger! In case you don’t remember, Mercer won that game and the reason for the Mercer swag was that my niece was on the softball team there at the time.

Cinderella Time

Like so many people, I am a total sucker for remarkable stories and especially sports hero ones – kids who have overcome considerable odds to get where they are – and the NCAA basketball tournament seems to have these by the dozens! Who could cheer against the #16 UMBC Retrievers’ undersized guard, KJ Maura and his Dad, Melvin, who spent the game racing up and down the stands with the huge head cut out of his son? Or the 98-year-old nun and Loyola-Chicago Ramblers team chaplain, Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who is practically an assistant coach for the team and their biggest fan?

My alma mater, the Ohio University Bobcats, have been Cinderella several times in the tournament. In fact, teams from the Mid-American Conference frequently contribute to the Madness and bust up brackets. I can still remember watching in 2010, when the #14 seed Ohio Bobcats upset the #3 Georgetown Hoyas, the second most lopsided victory by a 14, 15 or 16 seed. Although my all-time favorite was in 2012 when we made UNC’s Roy Williams look like the photo below during our first and only trip to the Sweet Sixteen. We came one free throw away in overtime from upsetting that Goliath and I might have been kicked out of the state in which I now live for excessive alumni celebration had we done it!

At the end of the day, the vast majority of us, in our personal and professional lives, are the Davids…the Cinderellas…the Underdogs. And it is so refreshing, at least once a year, to be reminded that we can all find that one magic moment in our lives to make our own dreams come true when we put in the hard work, work together as a team and dream really, really big. And to also remember that we don’t have until March each year to find our own opportunities to dance.

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