March Madness inspires hope for all

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Maybe you hope to win the billion dollars that Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans are offering for someone picking every winner in the NCAA Tournament? Forget it. There’s really no hope for that. The odds, according to the challenge rules, are 1 in 9 quintillion (I have no idea what that means, but it doesn’t sound good).

March Madness, what many affectionately call the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, does inspire hope, though. It gives us all hope that no matter how devastatingly imposing the odds may seem in any scenario, they can be overcome. We can, in fact, win.

Watching Harvard, a 12 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, upset 5th-seeded Cincinnati, I considered the remarkable odds against the young Crimson players. Sure, lower seeds have won — my hometown Cleveland State University once knocked off mighty Indiana, when the Vikings were a 14 seed.

For Harvard, though, the odds of winning in March must be measured against more than a simple seed in a tournament bracket.

Harvard is, obviously, an academic school. The best players in the country never go to Harvard to play basketball. In fact, only a handful of Crimson players have ever gone to the NBA. Harvard plays against other academic schools in the Ivy League, so the Crimson players aren’t used to seeing outstanding teams.

So, when Harvard out dueled a Cincinnati team, superior in athleticism and talent, I became more hopeful than usual.

Perhaps, at the ripe young age of 50, I can still hope for six-pack abs, even though the odds (not much exercise and too much cheese in my diet) are against it. Maybe I can appear on and become the next winner of The Voice, though the odds seem stacked against me; I really only sing in the shower, and I don’t even know how to audition. Oh, and have I mentioned that I’m half a hundred?

Still, I believe there’s hope for me and for us all. If Harvard can overcome the odds, why can’t we?

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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