Allen West: The Ironies and Lessons of March Madness

Allen West
By Allen West | March 12, 2018 | 12:09 PM EDT

NCAA Tournament championship trophy is hoisted by the North Carolina Tar Heels (Screenshot)

Yes, it is that very special and unique time of the year that is pure American. It is a time when we celebrate that game created by an American, James Naismith, called basketball. That grand pageant of competition called March Madness begins this week. In offices all across this great nation, folks are filling out their NCAA Tournament championship brackets and submitting into office pools. The odds of one person picking every game correctly is near impossible.

One thing we all search for in our brackets is that one team that will wear the slipper as Cinderella. I remember back when one Stephen Curry was playing at a small school called Davidson. My wife and daughters fell in love with him, and so did the nation. The school was awarded the slipper for the tournament.

We all secretly root for a #16 to upset a #1 seed. In the past few years, we have enjoyed the up-and-comers who thrilled us, such as the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin, the Shockers of Wichita State, the Bulldogs of Butler University, and the high-flying slam dunkers of Florida Gulf Coast University.

But as we begin another chapter in this long running American tradition, there are some incredible lessons we can learn from March Madness. And there are some interesting ironies too.

First, consider the fact that there are 68 teams selected for the Men’s NCAA tournament. We watched this past Sunday the selection show, the highs and the lows. The selection into the tournament is a merit-based process, and it is intricately determined. There are no criteria based upon subjective emotions. It is not about which team has the prettiest colors – if that were so Oregon and Baylor would never be considered. It is not about the teams we like the best. It is all about who earned their way in.

The lesson of March Madness is that at the beginning of the year, all the Division I college basketball teams started 0-0. They all began with the equality of opportunity to compete. Sure, there were those schools predicted preseason #1 or in the top ten. Take for example my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, whose Men’s basketball team was predicted to finish 13 out of 14 in the SEC. The Volunteers ended up being regular season co-champions of the SEC. And Head Coach Rick Barnes was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year. As for what will happen for them in the NCAA tournament, who knows, but it doesn’t matter that they shared the SEC championship. There is a Cinderella team out there, like Mercer University a few years back, who knocked off Duke, seeking that upset.

And so it is in life. We all have the equality of opportunity to compete, to do our best and achieve. March Madness is not about an equality of outcomes. Out of those 68 teams who enter, there will be one champion in the end. No one sits back and tries to manipulate the result, and we all go apoplectic when we perceive a bad call from the referee favoring a team. There are no “participation trophies” given out to every one of the 68 teams at the end. Only one team climbs the ladder and cuts the net. However, any team that earned their way into the tournament raises a banner in their home gym denoting “2018 NCAA Tournament,” a special honor.

March Madness is a meritocracy. So, why, last week, did Elizabeth Breunig write a commentary in the Washington Post asking Americans to try socialism? First, the world already has, and it sucked. But why would we want equality of outcomes, and who determines those outcomes? Socialism doesn’t celebrate a champion. It advocates for collective subjugation.


Ironically, there will be schools in the tournament where socialism is a popular theme. So, why are these schools participating in a competition that awards a champion, a one-percenter? How many of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament are considered liberal progressive, refusing constitutional conservative speakers? How perplexing that these schools who have professors and students that reject the notion of “America First” want to be crowned champions of basketball.

As well, let’s not forget that the Women’s March Madness is ongoing. Being a Tennessee graduate, we were perennial champions in women’s college basketball under the tutelage of the impeccable Pat Summit. But why do we still have separate Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments? I mean we are now told that women can serve in frontline combat units and special operations forces – Rangers, SEALs, Infantry. If we have made the social determination, equality of outcomes, that there is no separation between men and women when it comes to combat, why do we have separation in basketball? If the standards are now equal – and we know they are not, of course – why not make it so in sports, athletic competitions? Heck, shooting a three pointer is just the same as going hand to hand with an Islamic jihadist, right?

This is a very poignant irony. Someone determined that men and women are the same when it comes to our national security, our military forces. But why don’t the same folks decide that we do not need separate basketball tournaments? After all, maybe we could save lots of money? If women can “fairly” compete on the same standards as men in Ranger School, of course, they can on a basketball court too, right?

The bottom line is this: we love the competition of March Madness. Yet, we are being told to accept socialist philosophies of governance that thwarts competition, the striving to excel and be the best. During March Madness we yearn for the David who can defeat the Goliath, the famed Cinderella team. There was even a movie made about an American boxer, James J. Braddock, called Cinderella Man, who defeated the Goliath, Max Baer. Why do we love these stories in America?

Because America is that Cinderella team. It was a small little ragtag bunch of 13 colonies that took on the greatest military power the world knew at the time, Great Britain. We entered the tournament as a #16 seed and we upset the #1 seeded team. We the people are the original “bracket busters” and we surprised the world. We took the opportunity to be champions, so why would we settle for anything less?

We have many banners that hang in our gym. And to seek anything less, well, that is the real madness.

Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Mr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center to support its mission to expose and neutralize liberal media bias.


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