The National Basketball Association (NBA) finals cannot compare to the excitement and heart of the annual March Madness college basketball tournament; in fact, nothing in sports can. The raw emotion of the event and fansmanship of the schools set it apart from any other American sporting event I have witnessed. Just making it to the tournament often gives teams something to prove, and sometimes players perform better than they have all season. Reaching the March Madness tournament is the pinnacle of one’s collegiate career.
Players and fans alike feel deep emotional connections to the outcomes of the games. Especially in the later games of the tournament, the final buzzer brings with it an outpouring of emotion. It is an incredible juxtaposition of some of the strongest human emotion: anguish by those on the losing team and pure, unabashed joy for those on the winning team.
Many of the players have tears on their faces for different reasons. They simply cannot stop themselves from the feelings that come to them. It’s beautiful.
Fans, too, have a similarly automatic, visceral emotional reaction. Many fans at schools with big sports are the “one team for life” sports fans written about in this column last week. They live and breathe their sports teams.
At the NCAA tournament, this showing of fanmanship intensifies. Fans battle for greatness on social media and get in arguments over which team is better or will win it all.
That is exactly the type of fanmanship that should be applauded. These fans fully and completely believe in their team, whether they are ranked first or 16th in their region of the bracket. Tears upon losing are acceptable as are hugs and joy upon winning.
But Arizona fans took it too far after their loss to Wisconsin. Fifteen people were arrested in Tuscon following disorderly behavior resulting from the overtime loss to Wisconsin, according to ESPN.
Granted, the referees made a questionable call, and the fans’ anger is justified in some ways; any strong fan of any sport is not going to take a loss without some sense of anger or disappointment.
Getting arrested simply because a sporting team lost is overkill. It is not the police’s fault that Arizona lost and yet, the fans took it upon themselves to take it out on their surroundings.
Referees make calls every day that they think are the right call, and sometimes those have a huge impact on the game’s outcome. But to let the anger at those calls detract from the overall meaning of the tournament is selfish and immature, not to mention disrespectful and out of hand.
March Madness stands alone, in my view, as the single most exciting tournament in the sport. It moves quickly and is overloaded with action, excitement and emotion. There is no other tournament in the country that shows the opposition of emotion and sportsmanship quite like the NCAA tourney.