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When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball Paperback – February 2, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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 CBS College Sports network. He is also a staff writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, 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

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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In the Spring of 1979, there were two teams on an inevitable, collision course ~ perhaps more-so than any other two teams in the history of the NCAA tournament. The two teams were from the border states of Michigan & Indiana and both featured a superstar on their roster. For the Michigan State Spartans, it was Lansing's own Earvin "Magic" Johnson. For the Indiana State Sycamores, it was Larry Bird.

The two players would have many things in common, as well as some notable differences. Larry was more of a pure scorer, while Magic was more of a "catalyst" for his team's offense. Both players would move on & have remarkable NBA careers where they would continue their rivalry from the national championship game. Both would even become NBA head coaches; Larry was highly successful with the Indiana Pacers, while Magic's short stint with the Lakers was disastrous.

Personality wise, they could not be more different. Magic was gregarious and loved having a mic in front of his face. Larry, meanwhile, was diffident towards the media & preferred for the team as a whole to get the attention after victories rather than he personally. Magic always had a smile on his face, while Larry was known for his stoic expressions.

Such is the backdrop of the present book, which gives the reader a "behind the scenes" narrative of the 1979 college basketball season which culminated in perhaps the single most important basketball game ever played. It still holds the record for the highest ratings, and it elevated the game of college basketball to unseen heights. It also indirectly rejuvenated the NBA, which at this time was very unpopular.
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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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