In the midst of March madness

However, March Madness refers to a college basketball tournament. A competition featuring university students, prohibited from being paid, is currently all over prime-time TV and social media nationwide.

Officially, it’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men's basketball tournament, and it is taking place simultaneously at four venues across the States. It starts with 68 teams, of which 32 are conference champions with automatic berths. You know how they choose the other 36 sides (a majority of participants obviously)? A committee picks them. Seriously.

Imagine the outrage if the national winners made the Champions League, then a group of pundits selected a few dozen European clubs to join them. Here in America the choices are announced during a televised special dubbed ‘selection Sunday’. Then the eight lowest-ranked universities meet to find ‘the first four’, after the first round it is, ‘the sweet sixteen’ followed by the ‘elite eight and then the ‘final four’. Apparently boring titles like quarter-final and semi-final aren’t allowed.

Sports fans fill out brackets predicting every game, but it is notoriously difficult to predict this championship. This year, Warren Buffett offered $1 million a year FOR LIFE to any employee with an accurate bracket, and experts calculated the odds of getting it 100 per cent at a staggering 9.2 quintillion to one.

A friend explained to me that some American purists prefer the college sport to the NBA, maintaining it’s a truer incarnation with athletes playing for the love of the game, rather than for money. I’m not an aficionado of either version but I respect that view.

With the Blues on the international break, I won’t need to fight my way past alumnae cheering on some Midwest university I’ve never heard of this weekend. Now, what are the odds of finding a bar showing the Northern Ireland v South Korea friendly at 9am? I’ve probably more chance of filling in a perfect bracket…