Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bracket Madness

"How's your bracket?"

This question is the nationwide conversation starter, as once again the yearly tradition of March Madness in the NCAA national championship basketball tournament has begun. The event has become so ingrained in our culture that its terminology has become part of the lexicon, and its significance has become embedded in the national discourse. Certainly, there is a financial issue at stake, as friendly "office pools" have led to millions - dare I say billions - of dollars are changing hands. And, of course, the media is quick to report the economic impact of lost productivity in the workplace.

Of course, it's really just a bunch of basketball games. And there are certainly more pressing issues on both a nationwide and global scale. Additionally, this time of year jump starts discussions about the "educational mission" of the NCAA - and tax exempt status - when reporters begin to unearth the dark secret of abysmal graduation rates among college basketball players. At some colleges, the graduation rate for African-American players is a truly shocking 14%. And less than one percent of all these athletes will ever earn a living on the hardwood. Thus, there is much to criticize about our national obsession in the next couple of weeks, even as we are enthralled by the Cinderella stories and Sweet Sixteens.

Overall, our culture defines us - and often thankfully distracts us, and I'd conclude that talk of brackets is of far greater benefit to our society than cost. I, incidentally, chose Louisville for the championship game, and I had St. John's going to the Sweet Sixteen. So, it's nothing but a spectator sport for me from here on out. Go Illini!

So? How's your bracket?

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