FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 19, 2007
College basketball fans are swept up by March Madness
Not everyone is a rabid college basketball fan, so this topic lets newspapers fill their role of educating readers as well as informing and entertaining. Start a discussion about whether the sports section does a good job of describing more than who wins – such as how the tournament is conducted.
As with the Super Bowl and World Series, coverage of March Madness extends beyond game news to include personality profiles, fan features, business reports and commentary columns. Ask class members to find an “offbeat” article related to the games and tell why it interests them.
Sportswriters aren’t the only game-watchers who communicate with readers about March Madness and other athletic news. In addition to letters and guest columns, online editions typically present comments from fans and one or more bloggers. Invite students to look for outside voices discussing the tournament, and perhaps submit their own observations.
Future college students, current students, former students and lots of folks who never set foot on campus are caught up in March Madness, as much as sign of spring as daffodils, robins and Daylight Savings Time. The three-week NCAA tournament under way through April 2 involves 65 men’s basketball teams, games at 13 sites nationwide, coverage by traditional and new media, friendly wagers and the prospect of buzzer-beating shots that create legend-making upsets. The magic is "the serendipity of the tournament itself -- things just happen," explains NCAA official Gary Walters.
March Madness has become such a huge pop culture phenomenon that it inspires PlayStation2 video games. Ordinarily restrained adults wear college sweatshirts and jerseys to work. Even non-fans join bracket betting pools that can create an odd emotional commitment to the fate of obscure teams from distant schools with hard-to-pronounce names.
Workplace wagers and interest in daytime games can be a distraction that cuts productivity. Office workers no longer have to sneak a peek at games on break room TVs or check for score updates online. CBS Sportsline now provides a front row seat from any computer, thanks to free streaming video on the Web. The site’s viewer screen has a "boss button" that pops up a phony spreadsheet and kills the sound. But watching online potentially slows down company networks for everyone else.
The jargon: Early rounds of the Big Dance narrow competition to the Sweet Sixteen regional semifinals. Those teams battle to reach the Elite Eight regional finals and then the Final Four before a championship showdown.
The wagers: “Bracketology” is the art of picking teams that will remain in the tournament. Office pools with entry fees let people try to predict, or randomly select, the winners of games in each round – or bracket on a chart of paired opponents. Whoever accumulates the most points by accurately predicting the outcomes wins a grand prize, usually pooled from entry fees.
The finale: This year’s championship game will be Monday, April 2, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, hosted by Georgia Tech.
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