March Madness is a lesson in great storytelling. The players aren’t as athletic, skilled, sophisticated, or experienced as their NBA counterparts, and yet the tournament draws us in every year. Why? One reason is the stakes.
The tournament is infused with the passion of students and alumni, the dreams of underdogs, and the hopes of kids trying to impress pro scouts. And then there’s the most important ingredient of all: the single-elimination format. Win and play on, lose and go home. The stakes don’t get any higher than that, and so we watch.
About that bracket you fill out every year — what is that but your prediction of how the story will unfold? Your bracket represents the stories you like to tell yourself about your particular insight and the nobility of underdogs. Your bracket translates into a story you can tell your friends about which teams you were smart enough to choose and which teams let you down.
Great stories have high stakes. If your story isn’t connecting with your audience, maybe it’s because they’re unmoved by or unaware of what’s at stake.