Maybe you’ve got Gonzaga as your NCAA Big Dance champs. Not much risk there.
But it’s likely in your betting pool you’re doing the whole bracket, all 68 teams, rooting hard for some underdog who can show your handicapping genius by knocking off Arizona, Baylor or even the Drew Timme-led Zags themselves.
You’re likely a guy who digs watching sports. A fan, a dude, a bro. A man, in other words.
Tourney time gets you interested in places you’ve never heard of, with names such as Bryant, Longwood, Saint Peter’s.
You start thinking about the cool team nicknames, such as Spiders, Friars and Horned Frogs. In idle daydreams, you ponder the outcome of a bout between a real-life Lancer and a Scarlet Knight.
The one thing you don’t think about is actual college itself, things such as classes, professors and advanced learning. It seldom crosses your mind that all this hoopla springs from athletes who also are students or that a lot of regular guys aren’t going to college at all.
It’s funny that these teams, upon which you fellows (and some women) will bet an estimated $3.1 billion, exist at institutions designed for higher education, not handicapping.
So if you really want to make a high-risk wager, bet on the future of young men in our increasingly female-dominated American society, one of haves and have-nots. And — guess what, bros? — you’re slipping away from the haves. That is, if a college education still means anything. Which it assuredly does.
Here’s a stunning stat to think about while you’re mulling Coach K’s exit strategy: According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, women now make up almost 60% of enrollment in universities and colleges. Men are at just more than 40%. Fifty years ago, those numbers were reversed.
It might be true that women still get passed over for a lot of jobs, often get paid less than men and have a harder time with promotions. And sexism still exists and might not end anytime soon. But this right here, this male college-avoidance thing, is a disaster staring us in the face.
It has gotten so bad that many universities quietly are favoring men in admissions. Call it affirmative action for guys, and the losers, in a twisted, unwelcome way, are women. As the headline in a 2021 paper by the Hechinger Report on Higher Education stated: ‘‘An Unnoticed Result of the Decline of Men in College: It’s Harder for Women to Get In.’’
The reasons for the ratio change are many and complex but also, in at least one way, simple. This is increasingly not a man’s world. Many men are drifting, uncertain, lacking self-worth, feeling age-old manly values of being macho, strong and aggressive aren’t appreciated much anymore. So the heck with college!
Yes, the world used to be a playground for men, especially white men. Just check the Declaration of Independence. See any female, minority or poor immigrant signatures? Women couldn’t even vote until 1920 and didn’t get Title IX protection until 1972.
For years, the push has been for female equality in education, business advancement and society generally. And because women do better overall in school situations, the push has worked.
Women now dominate as college undergrads and, increasingly, in medical and law schools. Guys? Hey-hey! We’ve got sports and gambling.
It reminds me, in a way, of the warnings about ruling-class control of citizens in George Orwell’s ‘‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘‘Brave New World.’’ But instead of SOMA or Victory Gin, we fellows ingest Bracketology and odds.
And it’s not just in the United States that young men are dumping school or, seemingly, participation in the future. A report from the African social-welfare charity Our Moon Education says: ‘‘Zambia, for example, has five times more female single-sex secondary schools than male [ones]. . . . The male child is slowly turning into a victim of equity.’’
This isn’t a pity party for guys. Nor does it address the many racial elements involved here.
But it is a deep irony that the majority of the best players in the NCAA Tournament are Black. In college. Which sets them apart from so many other men, Black and otherwise.
Men don’t need to dominate in this world. And there are good careers that don’t demand college diplomas.
But guys — and women — need a balanced world. There’s more to it than March Madness and year-round stupidity.