People kept asking me if I was conflicted. They told me that Duke would play Notre Dame in the second round if both schools were to win. I attended both schools, and I tried to assure them that this was little more than an academic question; after all, Notre Dame doesn’t usually win first round games. Little did I know, however, that the mighty Blue Devils would also falter to a team loaded with talented engineers.
Brackets were busted, and hearts were broken. But at least it pointed out why March is such an interesting time: even the little guys can dream.
What March is about for the rest of the world, however, is rationalizing a lack of productivity. Last March, I was in India as part of a Global Consulting Practicum trip. I was a bad fan for those few weeks. I watched more cricket than I did basketball. And, by the time I returned, the maddest part of the tournament had lapsed, and all the teams I cared about had returned to campus, heads hung in shame. This year was going to be different, though. Two hours before the tournament’s first meaningful tip last Thursday, I became concerned about how I was going to handle it.
The office was eerily quiet around 10 am. Here, in one of the largest buildings in America’s largest city, not a creature was stirring. Did these people have better foresight than I did? Did they anticipate that CBS’s tactical staggering of start times would mean that somewhere, it’s always the last five minutes of a game? Did their ‘boss buttons’ all simultaneously malfunction? Or did they just realize that they always have a few vacation days left over at year’s end, and that the confluence of College Basketball Festivities and St. Patty’s Day festivities was too much to pass up?
Have we gotten to a point where we have no shame about our preference for this sport over our chosen professions?
I’m glad I contribute to this blog; it at least gives me an outlet to express my misgivings about acting like a college student when I’m pushing 30. Others may not have been as repentant. At any rate, I had no meetings on Thursday or Friday of last week, and I suspect that the number of group meetings at Fuqua may have also dwindled.
But for all the hours of lost productivity, the allegations of illegal gambling run amok, and the shortsighted bets that left white collar employees with shaved eyebrows, these two days provided a great deal of insight into why college (even business school) is such a great time. It’s a time when your priorities revert to where you naturally feel they should be. It may seem reckless to subordinate your professional responsibilities to some last second free throws in a 6 versus 11 matchup, but people wouldn’t do it if it didn’t provide them with some sense of unity, or meaning.
It’s not an idle impulse; people take sick days on the Ides of March because they identify, and because, in the past, March Madness has come to signify dreams come true, the improbable becoming likely, and solidarity.