The Overabundance of March Madness

March 17, 2015 by Mike Goff

I’m going to preface this blog post by acknowledging that what I’m about to suggest will likely cause some shaking of heads and “tsk-tsking” by many. You see, I’m about to suggest a longing for the good ol’ days when I eagerly awaited the Monday-after-Selection Sunday when I could devour the sports sections of my local newspaper and USA Today, looking for any information that might help me in filling out my, hopefully, winning NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket.

Over the past month we as college hoops fans have been subjected to regular television and online appearances by Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, among others, discussing topics such as “body of work” and “BPI versus RPI” as they predicted the 68 teams that would make the NCAA Tournament. Terms like “bubble watch” were suddenly common. None of us gave a second thought to pundits opining about “passing the eye test.”

Now, with the CBS Selection Show in our rearview mirror, we’ve moved from the Lunardis and Palms having their day to every beat writer and broadcaster dissecting the NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket with their points-of-view about which five seed will be a 12 seed and whether Kentucky can run the table. There also are countless websites that are breaking down each matchup with comparisons that range from projecting games against like teams to the Ken Pom index to whether my mascot can eat your mascot. Even statistician Adam Silver has moved from the world of political projections to the world of sports, with March Madness as his canvas for projections left-and-right (no pun intended.)

Enough already! I’m beginning to think that March Madness has fallen into the area that noted author, Barry Schwartz, explained as “too much of a good thing can prove detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being.”  Schwartz wrote and has talked on The Paradox of Choice and the whole notion of “choice overload.” 

While Schwartz’s research and opinions apply primarily to consumer behavior when considering all of our day-to-day decisions, it also, I believe, applies here to our consideration and consumption of March Madness. As interest, and viewership, in the tournament has grown to record levels, so too has participation in bracket challenges and other contests where even the peripheral fan is sucked into the vortex of making choices and predictions. With that has come the onslaught of information and analyses that is non-stop up and through the play-in games and the beginning of the tournament on Thursday morning, March 19.

The subtitle of Schwartz’s book is “How the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction.” Count me in as one of those who thinks that the abundance of March Madness has become harder and harder to digest. 

Now, let those games begin!