The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, an annual rite of spring for sports fans across the U.S., got underway in earnest Thursday. The single elimination three-week-long competition, better known as “March Madness,” pits 64 colleges and universities in games around the country. It’s hugely popular and it’s also become a big betting event. CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports from Colorado.
Every March, Americans take time out from their busy lives to feast on basketball. It’s March Madness after all, three weeks of fast-paced, televised action. And with all 64 teams in play at the outset, the first four days are especially intense. One unofficial statistic underscores this tournament’s appeal.
“The number one day for American men to get vasectomies is the Wednesday before March Madness. Because they get to recover on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Those four days have basketball all day long,” said Darrin Duber-Smith from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Ryan Elmore from the University of Denver Daniels School of Business said that March Madness is a huge topic of conversation during this period.
“You have this competitive bracket environment where just the average fan can feel like they are participating in something that’s a little bit bigger than just them talking to their coworkers on an average day,” Elmore said.
Pete Lepetsos runs a pool whose 100 participants paid $5 per bracket for a chance at winning cash prizes. He started it back in 1984.
“I won that one, haven’t won it since,” said Lepetsos.
The key to winning a pool: Everyone has a theory.
“This is about the affinity that people have for universities and for basketball in general. It brings in the fan, it brings in the non-fan, it brings in the gambler,” Duber-Smithn added.
In fact, the American Gaming Association now claims one in five U.S. adults will bet $8.5 billion on March Madness this year. Helped no doubt by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing sports betting. Eight states now offer legal sports wagers.
“It’s an understatement to say that gambling is becoming more popular in America.” added Duber-Smith. “Legalizing it is going to make it into an industry that’s ten times the size it is right now.”
No cash on the line though, in the pool Jennifer Uyeoka is running at the senior living facility where she works.
“But we’re giving away free meals and parking, laundry services and all that kind of stuff,” she said.
Morning, noon and night, at least on this opening weekend, Americans will be glued to the tube. Rooting on their teams or the long shots.
“America loves an underdog. America loves a comeback story. It’s very much of our cultural fabric. It’s unique. It’s interesting,” said Duber-Smith, and it’s nonstop, until a national champion is crowned on April 8th.