March is here, and with it comes the excitement of filling out brackets and predicting which team will win it all. But where did this beloved tradition come from?
People have been filling out brackets since the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament began in 1939 that the tradition really took off. When it first started, the tournament featured just eight teams, now it has expanded to 64? teams.
The term March Madness was first used in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, filling out brackets had become a widespread phenomenon. Now, millions of people around the world fill out brackets each year, hoping to correctly predict the outcome of every game in the tournament.
The odds of picking a perfect bracket are incredibly slim. Some estimates put the odds at 1 in 9.2 quintillion, but that doesn’t stop fans from trying.
Senior Dre Miles understands the difficulty of making the perfect bracket, but highlights why people will still attempt to do so. “It’s just a fun way to test yourself and your knowledge on the game while still having fun,” Miles said.
As well as just being a fun tradition, March Madness has also become a pretty big economic event. The tournament makes billions of dollars for the NCAA and its participating schools. The NCAA’s broadcasting rights for March Madness alone are worth more than $1 billion per year, and the tournament is a massive source of money for many local businesses as well.
Sports bars and restaurants tend to prophet heavily from the tournament with roughly 20% of spectators watching at these establishments.
The popularity of the tournament has also led to an increase in gambling, both legally and illegally. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans will bet more than $8 billion on this year’s tournament, with most of those bets placed illegally.
Even though there’s the risks of gambling, filling out a bracket and watching the tournament can be a fun way to bond with friends and family. It allows fans to feel more invested in the games.
OHS Senior Mayant Rabadiya, a lifelong Kansas fan, has been an amateur bracketologist for as long as he’s been watching the tournament.
“I’ve been filling out brackets since I was about 8,” Rabadiya said. “It’s just a fun way to get into the tournament and root for your team.”
Another local, senior Giovani Bejarano, says that filling out brackets is a way to bond with friends and family. “We have a group of friends who all fill out brackets together,” he said. “It’s a way to have a friendly competition because the winner usually gets all the praise while the loser has to do a punishment.”
As the NCAA tournament gets underway, fans in the Oswego Land community will be watching and hoping their brackets hold up. No matter which team fans root for, one thing is certain, March Madness brackets have become a beloved tradition that brings people together every year.
Michael Wannah is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine The Howl.