Sports column: March Madness is a special time in America

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, March 24, 2024

It’s a rite of spring as regular as spotting the first robin or, in Mississippi, planting a garden and getting a cold snap three days later — the filling of the brackets.

Yes, folks, the NCAA basketball tournament — also known as March Madness, or the time most Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU fans fully turn their attention to baseball — is here.

This is the week when everyone becomes a college basketball expert, when buzzer-beaters thrill us and we all become fans of a school like Oakland for a few days.

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It’s the time when we celebrate a guy like Will Wade for leading McNeese State to the Sweet 16, and forget that he missed the first third of the season for being a rampant cheater at LSU.

By the way, is it McNeese or McNeese State? It used to be the latter, then they suddenly and without much explanation dropped the “State” like a celebrity developing an alter ego. Between this, Connecticut more or less officially rebranding itself as UConn, and Hawai’i adding a random apostrophe to its spelling, it’s all very confusing.

But I digress.

March Madness is when we gather for office pools or just fill out our own brackets for fun. We vow to be like the Joker and watch the world burn by picking a Final Four of Long Beach State, Drake, James Madison and Colorado State, only to still wind up with the four No. 1 seeds at the end.

We’ll curse perennially underachieving teams that we believed in, like Tennessee, Iowa State and Purdue, and curse ourselves more for believing this was finally Gonzaga’s year.

For years afterward we shall sing glorious songs about our best upset picks. I can still recall picking No. 15 seed Santa Clara over No. 2 Arizona in my very first bracket in 1993, and backing Butler to make the Final Four in 2010 won me The Post’s office pool.

We’ll cheer when Duke gets bounced in the opening weekend, because everybody hates Duke.

We’ll keep an eye on the women’s tournament because our favorite SEC team is in it, but have a hard time finding it on TV.

Seriously, ESPN, is it that hard to have what days games are being played when you announce the bracket on the selection show?

We will chuckle at the antics of Buffalo Wild Wings’ buffalo and Lily from AT&T the first time we see them, then want to throw a brick at them the 500th time we hear the same punchline before halftime.

We’ll all relearn what channel number TruTV occupies on our cable or satellite system.

Yes indeed, March is a magical time. The NCAA Tournament is a cultural touchstone for the spring that binds us and heals our political divides for a few moments. Maybe the real madness is that we don’t do it more often.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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