Think about it. This may be the only time our citizens actually pull together for a common purpose without any serious consideration of political, racial, ethnic, sexual, geographical, or cultural leanings.
You can live in Manhattan, as I do — and that's as in New York City, not Kansas — and be thrilled by the amazing upset victory of the Northern Iowa Panthers over No. 1 seed Kansas. Now, I have no idea even where Northern Iowa's campus is located, somewhere in Iowa would be my best guess, but I couldn't swear to it.
You could live in Arizona or Vermont or South Carolina, I suppose, and feel inspired by the Cinderella run of Ivy League champion Cornell.
Contrast the nation's joyous fever pitch with that of the suspicion surrounding that other big television program from over the weekend — that's right, the healthcare bill. Nobody can apparently agree on anything surrounding the passage of the legislation. Is it good or bad for America? Whither President Obama and the Congress?
March Madness offers us a kind of carefree fun that is absent from the rest of our lives. We spend so much time obsessing over our jobs and careers. It's nice to go to a sports bar, root like crazy for one team or another and not really have to worry about whether the kids win or lose.
Regardless of your political, religious, geographic or ethnic persuasion, you can find a team to root for during the NCAA basketball tournament. It's so refreshing to see people getting excited about something without inflicting misery on someone else, as we often do in politics.
America is a famously polarized nation. Republicans and Democrats try to defeat one another in everything.
No vote or debate is too trivial for the two sides to resort to some element of partisan politics. They can't agree on anything and, worse,they put politics ahead of progress.
The political process often brings out the worst in us.
March Madness is a time to celebrate our nation. You can watch a game between Butler and Murray State and actually care about which team wins — even though I don't know anyone who can name a single player on either squad. Now we have Butler and Michigan State and Duke and West Virginia: all-American.
The games are inspiring. Look at what Northern Iowa accomplished. The little-known Panthers pulled the upset of the season by defeating the Kansas Jayhawks, the No. 1-rated team in the entire tournament.
And how about Cornell, suddenly playing like the beast of the Ivy League! Well, for a while, anyway.
Sports in America is all too often used and exploited to project a trumped-up metaphor for grit or determination or some other shopworn cliche. But during the March Madness tournament, the homilies really do hold up. It's fun to watch people agonizing over their demolished brackets (mine blew up before the conclusion of the first day's worth of games.
But so what? That's what March Madness is all about — having fun. It's a time when adults can act like college kids again for a few days. And that's not such a bad thing.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch. Click here to see his latest column.
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