March Madness is in full swing, as offices around the country rush to submit their brackets. Division 1 men’s college basketball is so popular in the United States that there’s a whole month devoted to it. However, while employees throughout the states will most definitely be glued to their phones or break room tvs, extending their lunch breaks to support their favorite teams, it’s not just the United States that gets swept up in the mayhem.
Basketball is a classic American sport. Okay, so it was founded by a Canadian, James Naismith, but it was established in the United State (Springfield, Massachusetts) in 1891 when Naismith developed the sport’s original 13 rules as part of class assignment at a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) training school. He designed the sport as a game that could be played in gyms during the winter.
Just because basketball was established in the United States and is most popular among Americans does not mean that it does not have international appeal. In fact, many of the key players Americans have come to know and love were recruited globally. Now, according to Latitude News, the sport that used to be “as all- American as apple pie and Chevrolet…has a distinct international flair to it.”
As sports writer Jim Caple explains for ESPN, the three-week NCAA basketball tournament is well-worth following and is becoming increasingly popular even among people who don’t live in the United States, for several reasons. First, it’s an exciting game that encourages people to play along. It’s a great activity to play with coworkers because it involves some friendly competition as fans predict which team will win in each of the main bracket’s 63 games through to the final and compare how they do, with money (typically $10 to $20 per bracket) at stake. The winners split the money among themselves. The competitive nature of the game is something people of all cultures can identify with.
Most of all, though, basketball has a become a diverse sport with players representing countries from all around the world. In this year’s tournament, there are 128 foreign-born players from 49 countries, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Besides the United States, there are several other countries with a large proportion of native players competing in the NCAA games, with 26 Canadian players, 21 from Australia, nine from Nigeria, and three each from the Bahamas, New Zealand, England, France, and Senegal. Additionally, several of the top teams in this year’s tournament have non-native players, with Gonzaga (which has the best record in the nation) having five international players, all from different countries.
Whatever your reason for watching the NCAA games and participating in this annual frenzy we’ve dubbed March Madness, there is no doubt that it has mass, international appeal. So wherever in the world you are, hopefully you’re as excited as I am! Just don’t ask me my bracket picks. Only time will tell how I’ll make out with my selections.