RetroPost: Christians and March Madness

In RetroPost, we feature a post from at least one year ago (ancient in pop culture time). The posts are featured because they have some relevance to current happenings, because they are timeless in nature and speak to a relevant issue, or because we plan on providing a follow-up in an upcoming post.

This Week: A year ago, Ben Bartlett addressed why we enjoy March Madness as well as some considerations Christians should have about the tournament season.

Each year, March Madness is a staple of the sports fan diet. NCAA basketball dominates the news, gives rise to hundreds of individual storylines, and causes countless hours of, “wasted,” time as sports fans everywhere watch around a dozen games in the course of a couple weeks. What’s the deal?

Really, it is simple. The NCAA basketball tournament satisfies several things which are important to the souls of competitive people everywhere.

1. It satisfies the love of simple competition.

Sports fans are just that- fans of sports. The tournament supplies lots of sports.

2. It satisfies a love for underdog stories.

Nearly every year, a team that was expected to lose early pulls of some impressive victories (for instance, Davidson is this year’s undisputed Cinderella).

3. It satisfies a love for dream matchups.

When you watch football, people constantly say, “if THIS team faced THAT team, THIS team would undoubtedly win.” And, of course, supporters of the opposite team disagree. Most of the time, the question is never answered. March Madness, on the other hand, tends to come pretty close to answering those questions. Even if your personal “dream matchup” does not happen, you can still see with a certain clarity how your team measures up on a national level.

4. It satisfies the desire for a number 1.

People always want to know a simple question; who is the best? That isn’t always answered in football, where this year’s, “national champion,” lost twice during the regular season! March Madness, on the other hand, emphatically answers that question, because the team who wins six games in a row against the best teams in the country can say with near-certainty that they are the best.

5. It satisfies the desire for participation.

This one, I think, is the real key to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament earning the title, “March Madness.” Sports fans love to not only SEE competition, but also to -in some way- compete against each other (this is best shown through the massive sports gambling industry). The simple bracket system of the NCAA basketball tournament allows workplaces, schools, churches, and even families to compete against each other for bragging rights (as in; “I got a higher percentage of my guesses right than you did!”) no matter how extensive your level of knowledge. And as knowledgeable sports fans everywhere know, knowledge does not always lead to victory!

Now, for the most part, I think participation in NCAA basketball tournament picks is both harmless and morally neutral. However, I do want to throw out a couple reminders this March Madness season.

1. Always be wary of gambling.

It is probably no big deal to throw a couple bucks into a pot with some friends to reward the best (or, more often, luckiest) guesser. However, remember that gambling can easily become an addiction for many people. Be a wise steward of your money, and don’t get into a pool whose stakes are too high for your income bracket. Also, don’t let March Madness draw you into habitual sports gambling. (Some pastors might say ALL gambling is wrong. I wouldn’t go that far, but as a matter of full disclosure, I once participated in two small pools with different scoring systems, and I won them both. The 160 bucks was a nice little way to tease my non-Christian friends about God being on my side! However, that was several years ago and I haven’t put money on the tournament since.)

2. Don’t let trash-talking and bragging go too far.

A little teasing back and forth can be fun, but be sure that you don’t hurt people’s feelings or act as though you have any type of superiority over others on the basis of your picks. Remember, good relationships are more important than your pride!

3. Don’t let sports get in the way of life.

This is just a good general rule, but it can be easy to justify taking a rain check on life because “the tournament only comes once a year!” I have no personal problem with watching several of the games for fun, but I would suggest that’s only the case when you have the free time (or maybe when your alma mater is making a run for the Final Four). Your family will still be there when everyone forgets who won the Elite Eight game in the St. Louis bracket.

That stuff out of the way, have fun! And try not to be too disappointed when Memphis runs over your alma mater Spartans in the Sweet Sixteen (Darn it!). Especially when you had picked Michigan State for the Final Four!

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.