Sunday, March 23, 2014

My March Madness Addiction


I have a confession to make.  In the 1990’s I struggled with addiction.  My name is Gayle Brisbane and I‘m a recovering March Madness junkie.  I was working as a travel coordinator with the athletic department at Pepperdine University and got caught up in one of the greatest sporting events ever created!  It should come with a warning: “Caution:  The NCAA Men’s BasketballTournament is highly addictive.”  I spent money I shouldn’t have, took red eye flights to watch games and almost slept in my car when I couldn’t get a room reservation.  I was desperate to be apart of the hoopla. 

It turns out March Madness is bad for business.  A study done by Challenger, Gray and Christmas reported an estimated $1.2 billion dollars is lost for every unproductive hour.  Over 50 million people participate in bracket office pools and more than 100 million are distracted by the games.

My addiction started innocent enough.  It was 1990 and I was in Colorado for a weekend ski trip with my then husband.  We didn’t realize until we arrived that the Final Four was in Denver that weekend.  Instead of skiing we wandered the streets.  We spent hours in the NCAA Experience and bumped elbows with big name basketball coaches.  The energy in the city was electric.  During the semi-final games we stood outside the arena and bought tickets to the finals off of a losing team’s fan.

The final game between UNLV and Duke was disappointing.  The Running Rebels beat the Blue Devils by 30 to win the National Championship.  It was never even close.  But that didn’t matter I was hooked on the experience.  My marriage didn’t last, but my addiction did. 

My husband and I split up later that year.  However, the next Spring I was back at the Final Four.  I took a redeye flight Friday night from LAX to Indianapolis.  All I had was a car reservation… no hotel reservation (everything was booked) and no ticket to the games.  As I stuffed a blanket and pillow from the plane in my carry-on luggage I knew I was in deep… those things are disgusting.  But I would need them if I had to sleep in my rental car.   

I drove to a health club for a quick workout and shower, then parked downtown and started wandering the streets in search of the elusive affordable ticket to the games.  A ticket scalper took pity on me and sold me a single ticket for $150.  The semi-final games were thrilling.  Duke got their revenge beating UNLV and Kansas narrowly beat UNC.  Thankfully I was able to get a room at a seedy airport motel due to a last minute cancellation. I took an early Sunday morning flight home and was back at work Monday.  My 24 hours in Indy were exhilarating.  

I traveled to seven Final Fours in the 90’s.  In 1992 it was Minneapolis, 1993 was New Orleans, Seattle in 1995, San Antonio in 1998 and Tampa in 1999.  I was finally able to get my addiction under control a few years after I became a sportscaster.  I know in order to truly kick the habit I should go cold turkey.  But my job requires me to keep abreast of the games.  So I dabble and keep my madness limited to an office bracket and watching a few games.  Airline blanket and pillows are not required.

Keywords: March Madness, NCAA Tournament, hoops junkie, men's basketball, Final Four

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