It is Selection Sunday in men’s college basketball, such a treasured national holiday I’m surprised Hallmark doesn’t have a card for it. This is the night when a 10-man selection committee sets the 68-team field and seeds for the NCAA Tournament — when the sport gives birth to the hallowed bracket.
That means Monday will find half the American workforce taking a sick day to recuperate from the physical strain and mental taxation of Selection Sunday, while the other half of the American workforce is on the job eschewing actual work for the business of organizing illegal (wink, wink) office pools.
All of this falls under the broad umbrella, “March Madness” … except we can’t use that phrase, technically.
It is a legal trademark of the NCAA and supposedly may not be used by others in association with a sporting event or anything related to college basketball. So if I refer here to “Mad March-ness,” you’ll know what I mean. Or maybe I’ll go with “March Med-ness,” as if an Irishman were saying it.
The origin of the trademarked phrase actually involves a broadcaster, but not Dick Vitale. It’s Brent Musberger! Yes, long before he lusted on the air over Miss Alabama, Musberger began referring to the NCAA Tournament as “March Madness” in 1982 on a CBS broadcast.
Why? Because Musberger knew the Illinois High School Association had been referring to its own state basketball tournament as March Madness since the 1940s, when he worked in Chicago.
A trademark infringement suit in 1996 led to a joint venture called the March Madness Athletic Association, which consists only of the NCAA and the IHSA.
Now only they may legally use the phrase, along with the millions more of us scofflaws who routinely do so with no fear of reprisal whatsoever.
Do not kowtow to technicality, Bracket-heads. Stand up for your free-speech rights. Fly your anti-establishment flag and stick it The Man! Raise a fist and join my chant:
“MARCH MADNESS! MARCH MADNESS! MARCH MADNESS …!”