Today is the perfect day to review Seth Davis' book, When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball. Without the 1979 NCAA final game between Michigan State with Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Indiana State with Larry Bird, Selection Sunday for March Madness might not be the big day it is. Davis, a sports analyst for CBS, tells readers how we arrived at today.
It's been thirty years since Magic and Bird faced off in that game, but there was a great deal that led up to it. Davis combines the stories of the two players, their coaches, and the teams in a story that is still suspenseful, even though many readers will know how the game ended, and we all know what happened to the two stars. One quarter of all television sets tuned into that game on March 26, 1979. But, people probably had no idea they were watching a change in sports.
Davis tells revealing stories of Bird and Johnson. They both wore #33. They were both skilled passers who were competitive players. But, this book reveals how different the two young men actually were, and how different were the paths they took to that ultimate game. The book examines their stories, their lives, and their relationships on the teams.
The book unfolds in the entire season that led up to the NCAA final game. It's a compelling story, hard to put down. And, that season, and that game, led to changes in the coverage of NCAA basketball, changes in the NBA, and changes in how we watch sports. ESPN grew into a powerhouse, covering NCAA basketball. When these two stars showed up, they drew audiences to college basketball, and then to professional basketball.
And, here we are today, at "Selection Sunday". College basketball tournaments have riveted our attention. The selections today will be watched all over the United States. Many of us will fill out our brackets, and talk basketball every day for the next few weeks. Seth Davis does a wonderful job relating how two college basketball players, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, brought us to this point, with one game. If you love basketball, check out When March Went Mad.
When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis. Henry Holt & Company, Inc., ©2009. ISBN 9780805088106 (hardcover), 336p.