*I have written about the financial problem that major college football and basketball are struggling with. Indeed the annual Division 1 national championship tournament for basketball highlights this problem so I do take issue with the tournament in one regard.
On the other hand the tournament also highlights the best that collegiate athletics have to offer. The tournament also attracts the most attention from casual sports fans and non-fans of any sporting event each year which generates lots of money for the individual schools.
Each year there are a number of “upsets” where teams with players who were not highly recruited coming out of high school defeat a team of probably future professional players. These kinds of scenarios capture the imagination of most fans (excepting those of the team that had its season end) because it gives credence to the idea that anyone can beat anyone else. The notion that if you work hard enough success will follow is a bedrock of American society. The idea of sports as a meritocracy is based on it. And most people have had a situation in their life where they think they weren’t given the opportunity to show what they could do. Upsets reinforce the “you can do it” mindset that everyone believes.
Furthermore the tournament makes money for everyone involved. In truth most fans are watching, not because they are intense college basketball fans, but probably because they have placed an illegal wager on the outcome of the tournament. Legality aside the significance of this is huge all those wagers means higher television ratings; higher television ratings means higher prices for ad time, higher salaries for those working the games, and higher payouts to individual schools. While the players are having their labor exploited in many cases, these payouts are the reason many schools are about to offer lots of non-revenue sports. In short the NCAA tournament is what makes collegiate crew squads possible.
The positive and negative of the tournament are not interconnected. It is possible to conduct the tournament and reap its value while taking steps to allow higher profile players to benefit from their celebrity.
So while I have problems with some of the NCAA’s policies it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying last weekend’s games, nor will I avoid watching the rest of them.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.