So what exactly is March Madness and how is that folklore?
March Madness is a basketball championship that is held each spring in the United States. 68 college teams participate in this fast paced elimination tournament that was created in 1939 by Phog Allen, a Kansas coach. With most of the games held in March, it has become one of this country’s most prominent sporting events.
Overall, sports are competitive games that have their roots in specific communities of origin. As community folklore many of them have been modified to suit their new environment. For example bowling which can be traced back to ancient Egypt. By the 14th century it had become popular in England. In Italy the same game of rolling a ball and knocking down pins was known as bocci.
Now, back to basketball. It was developed in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith who was charged with creating a new indoor sports activity. According to NBC.Com, the activity was designed as a physical education class at the international YMCA training school in Massachusetts. Originally the hoop was a peach basket that hung ten feet above the floor.
March Madness is an off-shoot that developed only decades after the game itself came into being. It was a way to spotlight college basketball (which is where many professional basketball players are drafted from). Remember, too, that college basketball players are still considered 'amateur' so they are not measured against their professional counterparts.
In general, folklore sports are a very vibrant category of folklore; always present in most cultures it is a physical example of several key social values: sportsmanship, ability to compete and working with others as a team.
All sports also produce sports heroes - men and women - who achieve through skill and applied determination a standard of excellence. These athletes represent the best of the best, so to speak. In turn these figures become folk heroes/heroines; people who are admired for their talents and leadership. Because many athletes come from adverse circumstances, they also represent what is possible for others who may also be in less than fortunate circumstances. They also serve as a rally cry for people who might not otherwise not come together as a larger community; one that can provide hometown, college, statewide and/or national pride.
An interesting twist in our American cultural values is the addition of wealth as another element of heroic success that many sports folk heroes/heroines gain during their careers. Unfortunately, sports fans can, and often do, forget about the other values that contribute to being a sports folk hero/heroine. It will be very interesting to see how sports as an element of community folklore continues to evolve.
Here are some basketball folk heroes/heroines: