Coming down with March Madness before the Big Dance may sound like an excuse to skip prom, but it actually describes our nationwide obsession with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This 68-team basketball bonanza has been known to crown a Cinderella or two, produce at least one shining moment a year, and turn millions of Americans into illegal gamblers. It’s that good.
It’s also a big business both on and off the court, making millionaires out of coaches, conference commissioners and NCAA executives but very few players. Tournament time takes a toll on fans’ wallets, too, and not just in terms of the millions we lose in bracket pools each year. The starting retail price for a ticket to one of the 2021 Final Four games costs around $1,500, for one thing (though much fewer fans will attend in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Around 19 percent more beer is sold to keep up with cheering fans, too. Plus, there’s the potential for some workplace conflict, since distracted employees cost businesses about $13.3 billion per year.