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Idol Chatter

One of the more religious practices in our country is taking place this month.
And no, it’s not “Lent!”
Okay, well, actually “Lent” is taking place for many faithful Christians across the land, but my guess (and what seems to be the cultural agreement!) is that more Americans are practicing the March ritual of making their NCAA bracket picks than those who’ve given something up for Lent. I have a good friend who has given up chocolate for Lent. I think that’d be almost impossible for me, but I’d gladly do it (and give up desserts altogether) rather than fast from March Madness participation!
According to the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a person who is religious is someone who will be “scrupulously and conscientiously faithul.” If that’s the case, I believe we are a country which is more religious about the NCAA basketball tournament brackets than we are about church-going! And…I think it has a great effect, and here is why:
March Madness inspires people. Even those who aren’t basketball fans tune in and pay attention. We root for people we’ve never met, especially if they’re trying to make the last shot and if we’ve picked them to win. It’s almost like we’re the congregation and they are the missionaries, taking our support and fighting it out for us.
March Madness brings us together. We gather at the altar of ESPN.com, CBSsports.com or the other internet sites at which we make our picks. Over the next three weeks, we’ll pay quick and regular attention to how are picks are doing. We’ll ask our friends and co-workers how theirs are doing.
March Madness unifies us. Because of the brackets, we’ll forge new friendships and renew old acquaintances. Many people end up reaching out to others in the pool via e-mail because they are congregated in the same contest together. It’s sort of like running into people at church who we haven’t seen in awhile. And even our celebrities (including the President) make their picks and it becomes public knowledge.
March Madness is a peacemaker! There are co-workers, friends and even family members who’ve struggled to connect or put something behind us, who are able to re-connect and chat through the 3 weeks of being in the pool together. Maybe research would even show that some family restorations or professional corporate cultures are positively impacted by some nth degree due to the fellowship of the picks?
March Madness is patriotic. For these brief weeks, it’s really cool to be true to your school. I usually give my friend Phil a hard time because his Stanford boys are never in it, but my UCLA Bruins aren’t in this year either so I’ll root for my adopted schools from my brackets!
March Madness balances the playing field. Regardless of social or company standing, everyone gets a chance to have an even chance in the picks contests. The seedings and records are there, and the odds of picking them all correctly are longer than, for example, winning the lottery…on a Tuesday…buying a ticket with your left hand and putting the change in your right pocket. Whether it ends up being Kansas or Kentucky, Syracuse or Duke, Xavier or U.C. Santa Barbara, we all have an even chance to pick the winners.
And, finally, March Madness is seasonal. We don’t burn out on it. We don’t tire of it. Every year–like Christmas and Easter for many–we look forward to this gathering of the congregation. We do it religiously.
I hope we all enjoy it. I hope my teams do well. And mostly, I hope the goodness of the season rubs off on us throughout the rest of the year (wow, that sounded like a Christmas greeting, didn’t it?!)

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