MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
A certain ailment can be seen and felt throughout the U.S. this time of year. It can be seen at the grocery store, in the gymnasium or at the workplace. It is nothing a doctor can fix, or your local corpsman. The ailment can be fierce, often leaving one feeling “mad.”
This ailment, known as “March Madness,” takes the nation by storm every year. There is no cure, and no medication to rid one of this madness; however, it is advised to sit back, root for your team, and enjoy the ride.
“March Madness” began in Illinois. The annual tournament of high school boys basketball teams, sponsored by the Illinois High School Association, grew from a small invitational affair in 1908, to a statewide institution with over 900 schools competing by the late 1930s. It was also during this time that college-level teams were invited to compete against one another, according to the official Illinois High School Association webpage.
The name “March Madness” became the official title in the 1950s because of Henry V. Porter, assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association, who was so impressed by the phenomenon happening in Illinois that he wrote an essay to commemorate the event, titled “March Madness.”
Today, the March Madness tournament is full of nail-biting games and tales of underdog teams making it to the top. The tournament invites the top 68 college teams from across the nation to participate in the single-elimination tournament.
Thirty-two teams earn automatic bids as their respective conference champions. The remaining 36 tournament slots are granted by bids, which are determined by an NCAA selection committee in a nationally televised event known as Selection Sunday.
Each team is then ranked within its region. After the initial four games between the eight lowest-ranked teams, the tournament continues over the course of three weekends, at pre-selected neutral gymnasiums around the U.S.
“I have always been a die-hard Kansas University fan,” said Pfc. Austin Kirby, administrative specialist, Headquarters Battalion. “Growing up, my grandfather and I used to watch all the Kansas games. Even though we can’t make that possible now, I still find the time during March Madness to watch Kansas play.”
Much like college, which is full of history and rituals, the tournament is no different. The winning team cuts down the nets at the end of regional championship games, known as the Final Four, as well as the national championship game. Starting with the seniors, and moving down by classes, players each cut a single strand off of each rim; and the head coach cuts the last strand connecting the net to the hoop, signifying the championship victory.
“I have always enjoyed college basketball much more than professional [basketball] because of the traditions,” said Pfc. Joel Lowden, combat engineer, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. “Just watching the games is much more exciting. The players always look like they are playing their heart out, and not just for money.”
The first round of the tournament began Wednesday, and the second round games will go through Thursday and today.
After tournament euphoria fizzles out and a champion is crowned, the “madness” fades, but like any virus, it stays with you, only to return year after year.
For information on game locations and times, visit www.ESPN.com.