Method behind the madness: Why fans love filling out NCAA brackets
The madness of March is upon us as the field of 68 is quickly widdled down. But why do people like filling out brackets? We talk to an expert about the risk and reward.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)-- By now your bracket is probably busted, but what is it about this time of year that causes college hoops mania? We asked an expert to find out why we love filling out brackets.
Jerred Wolfe is not that casual fan. "The NCAA National Championship is the most important sporting event of the year," said Wolfe.
In fact, he filled out 10 brackets for just one pool. Add in a fantasy NCAA Basketball League and he's all in, even though his favorite team is not.
"Unfortunately, my team is not in the tournament this year, but it's exciting either way," said Wolfe.
The American Gaming Association estimates more people fill out NCAA Tournament brackets than voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. So what is it about this time of year that turns people into bracket brainiacs? We asked Dr. Michael Cunningham, communications professor and social psychologist at the University of Louisville.
"You feel a charge of excitement, you feel invested in the outcome," he said.
Cunningham says regardless of your level of enthusiasm the rest of the year, you can still enjoy tournament time.
"They have the thrill of victory and the sting of defeat. It's just a very exciting thing to watch," said Cunningham.
It all comes down to tapping into the connection between fan and team driving the obsession.
"We choose a team and we vicariously experience success when our team wins," said Cunningham.
So even if you choose based on mascots or team colors, the pay off is still there.
"Then you have an opportunity to put your expertise and your skill into play by making a series of predictions," said Cunningham.
The NCAA itself does not condone gambling or filling out brackets for anything more than fun, but fan Wolfe says that's okay.
"The competitive aspect of wanting to beat your friends or your family," he said "it doesn't have to involve money."
Sometimes it doesn't even have to involve basketball. The 5th graders at Farmer Elementary in Louisville are doing their own bracket, this time with books.
"It gets them motivated, it gets them excited about it," said teacher Laurel Oskins.
Sixteen titles compete for top book in the bracket as students vote, eliminating one book at a time.
"Sometimes people are like 'this book should have been up there,' and then there are arguments, 'no this book is way better than that one'," said student Christal Walden.
"It's really fun to read and find out who gets to win," said student Malachi Ibn-Mohammed.
Just like the real madness, it all comes down to the reward.
"If it works out for you, it's like winning the intellectual lottery," said Cunningham.
So whether you like the most obscure team from the smallest conference or the basketball powerhouses, the ball's in your court when it comes to bracketology.
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