March Madness

March has arrived and with it comes madness. The term “March Madness” was originally coined by Henry V. Porter in 1939. Shortly before the turmoil of WWII, he wrote in the Illinois High School Athlete about the excitement that swept his state in connection with the playoffs. I’m sure he had no idea of the expansive future that the term would hold.

The NCAA basketball tournament provides us with a fascinating opportunity to reflect on the meaning and value of competition. There will be some terrific basketball, some suspense-filled games, and, as well, examples of competition run awry. If you’re a college hoops fan, no doubt you will spend many hours glued to the screen. Of course, the primary purpose of watching is to get caught up in the excitement, in the enthusiasm, in the pure fun of it all. But as you watch, you might also want to ask yourself a couple critical questions: just how are the athletes and sportscasters portraying the nature of competition? Do they see it simply as a battle? Is it an opportunity to excel? Does the value of competing visit only the winners? Are opponents being respected and appreciated for the contribution they make to a great contest? Finally, is this the kind of competition that will help us develop the values, norms, and commitments that build and sustain a healthy society? Would you want the same view of competition acted on in corporate boardrooms? There are no simple answers, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

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