Coping with March Madness

Is this month of college basketball insanity really worth embracing? You bet it is.

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As redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon and the Virginia men’s basketball team get set for the NCAA Tournament, columnist Kerry Mitchell asks whether our college hoops obsession is healthy. Her response? No, but we’ve still got to watch.


On Sunday, the Cavaliers and the hated Blue Devils were locked in a battle for the ages, and I was reduced to a rabid, shaking wreck on the couch. I took periodic anger marches through the house, screamed into pillows — only after being told by my parents that I was not using an indoor voice — and, by some combination of covering my eyes, yelling at Dick Vitale, pointing at the TV and trying to mute myself, decimated the seam of my sweatshirt’s hood.

The Wahoos won the game, as we all know, and the Mitchell household rejoiced. I, however, had to content myself with celebrating from my seat. Virginia had captured the ACC crown, but the title game had also left me with no energy, a ripped sweatshirt, and the realization that the torture was not over.

What we face now, as the NCAA Tournament kicks off, is another month of wringing our hands, damaging our vocal cords, drinking away our emotions and ripping our sweatshirts. It’s another step down the path of insanity. And for what? Maybe this year we should save our sweatshirts. Maybe this year we should say no to March Madness.

As the resident doctors’ kid in my apartment, I feel qualified to tell you that March Madness causes stress, which can have a number of physiological and emotional effects, which can be really, really bad. Seriously. High blood pressure, states of despondency, loss of sleep and decreased cardiac health all await the over-involved sports spectator. Consider yourself warned.

March Madness can also be damaging to your interpersonal relationships. Friendly banter and smack talk can easily give way to venomous words and irreparably strained relationships. Then, of course, you’re not even safe in the company of fellow fans because everyone has made different predictions for the 67 teams who still remain. Might as well join a pool with yourself and interact with only the non-basketball crowd out there!

Of course, the relationships you manage not to destroy during March Madness will be irrelevant when those friends inevitably feel you’re neglecting them. Seriously, “March Madness” may have a great ring to it, but the timing is just plain bad. Students are taking exams while graduates are navigating their taxes — or at least they would be if they weren’t obsessing about basketball. Think of all the other things a person could do in a month: learn a foreign language, get six-pack abs, write a bestseller. Then think of how much time that person will instead spend wrapped up in college hoops. Productive? Not exactly.

Now, dear readers, let’s talk about our wallets. Some lucky schmuck — and you know there will be one — will walk away with a cool billion dollars courtesy of Warren Buffett, but the rest of us will convince ourselves that, to make any kind of profit, we have to enter every single pool set up by our friends, family, workplace, clubs, sports teams and what have you. More pools mean more buy-ins. March Madness makes us fiscally irresponsible!

Hell hath no fury like a basketball fan whose team just choked against the 10-seed in the round of 32, posing yet another March Madness-related risk. Rabid sports fans — victors and losers alike — are liable to rip down streetlamps, throw punches in bars, and destroy their families’ eardrums (sorry, Mom). Meanwhile, the less inflammatory of us are prone to long nights on the couch with a tub of ice cream and a beer, staring at an empty screen with the game long over, murmuring things like, “Where were the rebounds?” and “We were up by 10…” We sports fans are not a stable bunch, and our coping mechanisms are just not healthy.

But then, when it’s all said and done and your team has won it all, there’s that feeling. The sun shines a little brighter, the strangers you pass on the sidewalk seem a little friendlier, even that sandwich you paid too much for at lunch tastes a little better, and you forget all about the month of torture you’ve just endured.

March Madness is, shockingly, madness. It is a recipe for insanity wrapped in exhaustion and served with a heaping side of stress. It’s not just the thrill of the victory or the agony of defeat but the often-cruel roller coaster of a journey that elevates us to the highest of highs just before throwing us back down again.

But, when it’s all said and done — whether we’re dancing in confetti or drowning in our sorrows — we can look back and know what every other insane and exhausted fan knows: it was worth it. Win or lose, we have a whole month of madness ahead. Time to brace yourself.


Published March 18, 2014 in Sports





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