During the first NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1939, just 8 teams participated. Today, the event has grown into a full-blown cultural phenomenon, complete with its own vernacular and pseudoscience. “Bracketology” alone draws participation from roughly 50 million Americans each year, including the President. The grip on our collective attention results in an estimated $1.2 billion decline in workplace productivity, a figure only slightly larger than the cool billion offered up by investment whiz Warren Buffet to anyone who managed to predict a perfect bracket.
People say that the tournament is the one sporting event that never disappoints, and the finale to this year’s show was certainly no exception. It was the first time in nearly half a century where the last two teams participating had not played in the tournament during the previous years. UConn and Kentucky’s combined seeds — 7 and 8 respectively — also represented the highest ever total for a final game, easily beating the previous record of 11. A new attendance record for both the Final Four and final game were also set, totaling 158,682 over Saturday and Monday, thanks in part to the state of the art venue that is AT&T Stadium (Jerry’s World, indeed). We headed down to Dallas to experience the tournament’s finale, and managed to snap some photos in between occasional showers, rampant shortages of $9 Miller Lites and gridlocked crowds.
There’s no shortage of corporate tournament tie-ins these days, but LG’s annual “Coaches Cook-Off” deserves some credit for furthering the goals of local communities in addition to their own. This year’s event, created in support of Project Fit America, saw four underprivileged elementary schools chosen from the North Texas area competing for a sizable physical education grant. Teachers teamed with Baylor University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Scott Drew and Texas A&M Head Men’s Basketball Coach Billy Kennedy to cook pizzas for a panel of judges that included basketball legend and LG spokesperson Clyde Dexler, among others. While Trey Shearer from Silver Creek Elementary School walked away with the grand prize, the other three competing teams were still rewarded with products that included computer monitors, fridges and TVs.