The Beauty of the NCAA Tournament: Evidence of a thriving culture with healthy roots


Just a footnote of contemplation, I couldn’t help but notice what a wonderfully vibrant culture America is on the evening of the first March Madness games of the NCAA tournament. Everywhere I went all during Thursday March 16th and into Friday March 17th, which happened to be Saint Patrick’s Day as well—it was a thriving culture full of energy and forward-looking optimism.  Donald Trump had just submitted his budget cuts to congress, Space X launched a rocket into space from Cape Canaveral and all of the American colleges who made it into the famous basketball tournament were competing for attention on the nation’s television stations in every restaurant, bar, and personal device.  It was wonderful to see.   For context I had just spent much of February in England with a little time in France and I watched a lot of their news—particularly Sky News and the BBC—and it was boring compared to the activity that was going on in the States.  For days on end I watched coverage of cricket, rugby and soccer and everything was kind of an anticlimax.  As I looked around, especially in London I would have expected a lot more energy—but everything was pretty flat—especially regarding sports.  If England was a first world country, then those poor people in second-rate and third-rate countries really had it bad.

If Europe is supposed to be the model we are all to be following in the world—as it certainly was under Barack Obama’s presidency, then that was a serious mistake. They have nothing to offer that matches the excitement from coast to coast as what we have in America with our Super Bowl, and NCAA games.  No matter where you went from California to New York, people were excited about the NCAA Tournament if even mildly.  It was quite a unique exhibition that I noticed more this year than in years past because I literally had just experienced a different culture in a supposedly first world nation that didn’t even come close.  I tend to watch a lot of news no matter where I am in the world.  I’ve experienced similar opinions while engaged in extended stays in Japan and it continues to amaze me how limited the artistic scope of places outside of the United States truly limit themselves to—and to me sports is a branch of artistic expression entwined with commercial enterprise.

All during the first days of the Tournament I had the games on with my multiple devices and even if I didn’t care much for the teams, I enjoyed the festivities immensely. What was even more stimulating was that for a time during the 16th I spent some time at home as Vanderbilt was trying to make a comeback and there was much excitement from the broadcasters—I had the game on so that I could hear it over my Playstation VR headset where I was playing Rush Blood—which is a really creepy haunted house shooting game and I was able to blow off some stress while still enjoying the game on television because with Playstation VR, you can pump all the video into your headset leaving the television free for another broadcast which I thought was pretty cool.

Little things like this matter to me because I spend a lot of time studying old forgotten cultures and when I see all these very dynamic interactions playing against a static global culture I get excited about the prospects of the world. In America in spite of the bad news that always seems to come from our newscasters, enthusiasm is oozing out of every crack.   And you can clearly see it when we have major sporting events where advertisers put up their products on television commercials, and restaurant sales spike because people gather together to have a few drinks and watch the games to measure their success on office pools.  I see it all in a very positive light.  The rest of the world isn’t like this, and it should be.  There is nothing wrong with America—the only fingers that point out the possibility are the jealous countries out there who call our success “excess” because they can’t compete at the same level.

I’ll admit it was nice to see a few of my hometown teams of Xavier and NKU win their first games and you could feel the sentiment on the radio broadcasts the next morning. The entire city of Cincinnati was stepping a little lighter across the day.  Sure there were budget problems in Cincinnati as Democrats had overspent to the point of deficits and cuts would have to be made, just as Trump is doing at the Federal level.  But that’s management, the sports events were what made our culture tick with the inflection of the net result of our place in the world.  Just as some teams had their worst days of their lives yesterday when they lost in the first round—as only 32 teams will advance to the next game.  32 other teams did advance to the next game and that is the joy and sorrow of capitalism and the reason the rest of the world doesn’t have such an experience is because they are functioning from the wrong political philosophies—which is a shame.  A thriving culture should be able to take the downside as well as the uptick.  Beer and hamburgers still taste the same when you have a down day, but on days of victory and celebration, they taste a little bit better and that’s the fun of it.

I can only say that I was thankful for the experience. Spring was in the air; the games were on the radio and television everywhere and optimism was pouring forth—which was more exciting for me because I had just been watching cricket highlights just a few weeks ago wondering how in the world those people were functioning on a day-to-day basis if that was evidence of a first world country.  In America NASCAR is roaring every weekend, basketball is being played everywhere, and baseball is about to start-up in just a few weeks.  What’s not to like.  I don’t care that much about sports but yet I still enjoy the sound of Marty Brennaman on a Saturday afternoon over the smell of freshly cut grass, pool chlorine and an outside grill cooking hamburgers.   It’s not so much if those teams are winning or losing—but it is about them trying to do so and tempting the fate of chance to do something extraordinary—which is the backbone of American culture and why we have all these sporting events to begin with—because it is inflective of our nature manifested through competitive events turned into commercial enterprise—and that is truly beautiful.

Rich Hoffman


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