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When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball Hardcover – March 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"There are no secrets anymore in sport.  Good grief, the best eighth-grade basketball players in the country are ranked. With his careful telling of the romantic saga of Magic and Bird, Seth Davis reminds us what fun it used to be when we could still be surprised, when a whole sport could be turned upside down, right before our wondering eyes.  It's a delight to relive all that with When March Went Mad."—Frank Deford

“I can’t remember a behind-the-scenes story I have enjoyed more. A transcendent moment in sports that is so fully captured by Seth Davis -- I feel as if I was right in the middle of it all! Thanks, Seth, for the insight as to how this magical game is still a standalone event even thirty years later.”—Jim Nantz

"There is a lot more to what is known as ‘the Magic vs. Larry game’ than meets the eye. In When March Went Mad, Seth Davis does a superb job of shining a spotlight on many of those long-forgotten details."—John Feinstein

"Seth Davis’s When March Went Mad evokes more than a special season. Through deft reporting, he takes you behind the scenes from Terre Haute, Indiana, to East Lansing, Michigan, and on to the famous championship round in Salt Lake City. Best of all, though, Davis captures Larry Bird and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson as the young basketball genuises they were, basketball’s yin and yang, equal but opposing forces who would transform the game. This is a fine piece of work."—Mark Kriegel

"There are only a few perfect combinations in the world. Peanut butter on toast, scotch on ice, and Seth Davis on basketball."—Rick Reilly

About the Author

Seth Davis is an on-air studio analyst for CBS Sports coverage of NCAA basketball and is an on-air host, reporter, and analyst for the College Sports Television cable network. He is also a staff writer at Sports Illustrated, where he has worked since 1995, primarily covering college basketball and golf. A graduate of Duke University, Davis lives with his family in Ridgefield, Connecticut.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805088106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Flo on November 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1979, when I was at Ohio State University, the sports buzz was all about the Michigan State Spartans and their great player Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and a guy named Larry Bird who played for Indiana State. One team was undefeated, and the other was cutting a swath through the Big Ten.

But this was before (gasp!) cable TV in any but a primitive form. There was no ESPN. There was virtually no way to see these teams unless you scored tickets in person. And so it was that one of the great rivalries in sports history could barely be seen, much less analyzed by sports fans around the country. Only when Bird met Magic in that season's NCAA finals, could basketball fanatics really see not just what the fuss was all about, but the future of pro and college hoops.

In "When March Went Mad," Seth Davis, a basketball analyst for CBS, tells the wildly entertaining tale of how NCAA basketball came out from behind the shadow of college football to become a sports juggernaut in its own right. Even in college, Johnson and Bird were basketball virtuosos, capable of bringing their teams up to whole different level. There was something new and different and even a little mysterious being played out in college hoops that year, which brought in its wake a new crop of superstars like Michael Jordan and college sports TV contracts generating literally billions of dollars a year.

And it all started with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

With excellent attention to detail, Davis tells the real story behind that storybook year, relating the ups and downs, the PR and game-day disasters, the come-from-behind victories, the challenges overcome almost daily by two teams who had been completely ignored pre-season by pundits and analysts.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Keen on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm a sucker for a book like this, having lived through and loved the Bird era (and Russell, Cowen, and the rest of the glorious heritage, later almost destroyed and now revived) and having once been a 20-year resident of Red Sox Nation who even remembers the Patriots as the Boston Patsies. But even for a fanatically fanatic fan, it's hard to get excited about it. It's workmanlike but basically is a newspaper style narrarive of the season, with too much play-by-play of regular season games with useful though unexciting comments. Perhaps the very format of the book bounded its possibilities. It ends up just OK -- nothing special but delvering what it promises.

Lurking in the text is the complexity of Bird, who came from a background that almost guaranteed drift and failure but whose tenacity and integrity of his inner core won through. He clearly was less likable and more volatile than the persona presented by the press, and almost cruel in much of his behavior; he was also apparently a two-fisted drinker and enjoyed the resulting combination of party and put downs. This makes his growth and maturation even more impressive. The book hovers around this element of Bird but at a surface level. It also gives little depth about Magic's very different personality, that also seems to have had hidden quirks. These are two young men of whom perhaps there is little to discuss beyond what they achieved on court and there is little to say about that in words rather than through the televised game itself.
The writing is solid and avoids hype and purple prose. The material seems accurate in its quotes from and comments on players and coaches but the overall result is unexciting. There's little to criticize about it but little to enthuse about either.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on December 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Today, college basketball is big business, with massive TV contracts and incredible hype. During the annual NCAA tournament, college basketball mania reaches its apex with "March Madness." Every red-blooded American fills out a bracket or ten and watches raptly as Cinderellas, dark horses, and favorites vie for supremacy.

But it wasn't always this way, and Seth Davis's When March Went Mad tells the story of the single game that arguably made college ball such a big deal: the 1979 tournament final, which pitted Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans against Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores.

Davis has done his research, with nearly 100 interviews and extensive trips to the radio and television archives. The result is a well-written, informative account of the season that led up to the crucial game. He provides ample background on Bird, Johnson, their teammates, and coaches, and puts the reader on the team bus as they crisscross the country over the 1978-9 season.

The Bird/Johnson classic came at a crucial time: the UCLA dynasty that dominated the sport in the 1960s and 1970s had begun to fade and television executives wondered if the public would continue to watch a game with no obvious favorite. With coverage limited, most of the country did not get to see many of the smaller schools play. With the advent of cable television, though, the game could get more exposure. The question is, would anyone watch?

After reaching into the backgrounds of the two principles, Davis charts the entire season in a way that keeps the reader's interest. By midway through the book, you'll be eager to learn what happened at the Michigan State/Northwestern game thirty years ago. Davis keeps it interesting enough to get you through the season and into the tournament.
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