I love March Madness, the NCAA men’s basketball championship. In the midst of baseball lockouts, pro basketball teams tanking, and — OMG —Tom Brady coming out of retirement (because of course he did) we needed some good news.
I love March Madness, but probably not for the reason you would think. Oh, I get a thrill from the buzzer beaters and the bracket busters. I am all in for switching channels between two, three, and four games during that first wild weekend to catch as much action as possible. I delight in seeing the lower seeds knocking off the blue bloods (see you, Kentucky). And yes, I am head-over-heels in love with the 15-seed St. Peter’s Peacocks (which will probably be the kiss of death this weekend).
But somewhere along the way I realized why I was enjoying the experience in a special way this year. There are no gambling ads. No annoying come-ons for sports books. No old former athletes pitching you to give up your hard-earned money. None. Nada. Zilch.
As I wrote last September, awful gambling ads now dominate almost all sports broadcasts. Virtually every professional and major college sports league has decided to go all-in on betting. Before the games, during the games, during the at-bats in baseball games, while football teams are in the huddle, after the games. Bet $1 on anything and get $100 free. Seriously. How naïve can one be to spend your hard-earned money with that come-on? If you know they will give you $100 to bet for free, you can put your money down on the fact that you will lose more than you win if you play for any length of time.
Why do this? Follow the money. And the gobs of money — and the people it brings out — will affect the games in ways known and unknown. I suspect it won’t be good and will drive away long-time fans.
But at least this year, the NCAA tournament has not been filled with gambling ads. I’m quite content to see endless versions of the commercials with AT&T’s Lily (Milana Vayntrub) interviewing replacements to fill in while she watches the tournament. (The one with Coach K is pretty good). The Progressive Bundles resort features one of the best “eww” moments ever when the teenage girl catches her parents in the love tub. I laugh every time those crabs walk over to give homage to LeBron James in his crab walking Hummer. I sing along with Queen as the drivers of the GMC Sierras don’t have to use their hands for silly things like holding on to the steering wheel. Yes, I even laugh time and again at the Chuck Kuts. What I don’t have to see is Drew Brees talking about living your “bet life” (whatever the hell that is).
Let’s go Peacocks!
More to come…
While on a blogging break, I’m taking the time to share some of my favorites from the More to Come archives. This will not end well — which is a part of the blog above, was originally posted on September 17, 2021. A related post on The dislocation of joy was originally posted on October 4, 2021.
Woo hoo! Look at the Saint Peter’s Peacocks pulling off the third big upset in a row…on National Peacock Day, no less! Yes, I love March Madness.
As is usually the case, March Madness reverts to the norm for the final weekend, as the top seeds (or long-standing power teams like UNC) win. Nonetheless, Saint Peter’s had a magical run. Now we have a top-flight Final Four with probably the best four teams in the country (in terms of how they played the final couple of months) still in the hunt. Villanova vs. Kansas and Duke vs. UNC should be fun.
I know I wrote this about the men’s tournament, but the best game of the entire NCAAs so far – in my estimation – has been tonight’s two overtime thriller between the UConn and NC State women. Oh, my goodness…shot after shot after shot to put one team or the other ahead while the game hung in the balance. As UConn’s coach Gino said, it is a shame they couldn’t both go to the Final Four. What a game for the ages.