March Madness is arguably the most glorious annual event in sports, and it all centers around a simple tournament bracket that’s most easily and enjoyably digested at one time.
That’s why the tournament’s annual “Selection Sunday” reveal is so egregious. It’s a two-hour TV program (thankfully, “only” 90 minutes this year) that lards copious amounts of bloviation and advertising around something that most sports fans would prefer was just posted online at an appointed time.
Last year, however, an anonymous vigilante threw themselves upon the gears of this money-making machine by leaking the 2016 bracket halfway through the TV reveal. Now 2017 Selection Sunday is upon us in two days. Could we be due a repeat?
The NCAA, college basketball’s governing body, has a $10 billion deal with CBS and Turner to broadcast March Madness, including the exclusive bracket reveal. Needless to say, it takes keeping the bracket secret seriously. The bracket is guarded like the nuclear football. The NCAA said after last year’s leak that, well, they literally said “we take this matter seriously.” (No matter — this year, sports site Deadspin is offering any potential bracket leakers a secure way to do so.)
Meanwhile, the NCAA steadfastly refuses to let any of the billions of dollars it generates trickle back to the players who are its product — despite the value of branding and broadcasting rights in college athletics skyrocketing over the past few decades.
So here we are, in this strange little love triangle between players, fans and corporate powers-that-be. The fans, most of us anyway, would rather just get the bracket without the drawn-out TV striptease. The players don’t see any of the money generated by this whole circus. Yet the NCAA and its corporate partners laugh all the way to the bank.
So wouldn’t it just be too bad if someone leaked the March Madness bracket on Selection Sunday again?
Yes, that would be just too bad indeed.