Not all heroes wear capes.
I can’t tell you if that’s the case for the brains behind Reddit March Madness, because I don’t know how he dresses. But every indication is that /u/JaniSWFC meets the criteria for hero.
Logan, a college student in Oklahoma who was born and raised a Tulsa fan, has been a college basketball lover since he was 5. He has plenty of fond memories following the Golden Hurricane, with the at-large bid in 2016 and the 40-point beating they put on Memphis this year, which he was in attendance for, at the top of the list.
But Tulsa didn’t get a shot at the American’s auto bid after the conference cancelled its tournament, and soon the NCAA did the same with March Madness. Not long after, Logan, a mod for the /r/CollegeBasketball subreddit’s Discord chancel, had an idea.
“One of the things I’ve been doing for a long time, when I was a kid and now, is going on video games and doing simulations of leagues and stuff on sports games,” he explained. “I originally thought, I’ll just try to do the tournament and stream it in one go on my own Twitch channel, but that didn’t go too well because there was really only about 15 people watching.”
Later that same day, though, the mods of the subreddit were trying to brainstorm ways to keep the forum active in the face of the sport’s abrupt shutdown. Logan offered the solution.
“They needed something to fill the void in programming to try to keep the momentum going on the subreddit, and I suggested that we could run a simulation of March Madness on a game of some sort and try to be somewhat accurate about it,” Logan said. “It pretty much just went from there.”
That was about a week before the Reddit March Madness First Four, and since then, Logan’s tournament has taken off. The games have been getting hundreds, sometimes thousands of viewers, and the subreddit has embraced the virtual replacement of the now-extinct real thing.
It has blown up much larger than Logan expected, and the second round hasn’t even started yet.
“I thought it was going to get some attention,” he admitted. “But I never really imagined it spreading this wide.”
Logan has been responsible for a vast majority of the behind-the-scenes work, from procuring the proper rosters to simulating and posting the games to YouTube. It has been a major commitment for him, and one that he soon realized was larger than he originally thought as the first round wore on.
Simulating 32 games in four days for Reddit March Madness has meant some long nights for him, and there have been some technological issues that have caused even more of a headache. But he has worked around the obstacles and discovered ways to make the content even more appetizing to viewers, like utilizing a function on YouTube that allows publishers to upload videos whenever they want, then schedule a time for it stream “live.” For people at home, the video appears to live streaming, when in reality it was uploaded beforehand.
When putting on a virtual tournament meant to act as the real thing, small touches like that are crucial.
“The games will still be live in the sense that nobody knows the scores but me, but it works around my schedule,” he explained.
The reason for Reddit March Madness is the cancellation of regular March Madness. That comes back to the Coronavirus, which has essentially ended sports around the world for the time being and put an end to a lot of normal activities. For Logan, it means he is out of work for at least three weeks, which is one of many realities Americans and people everywhere are facing. This virtual event has helped him cope with the greater situation.
“It’s given me something to do, keeping my mind off the news and all that,” he said. “It allows me to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s a way of distracting me from everything else. It keeps me busy.”
Through his work, he’s providing the same escape for many others, too.
“I’ve definitely heard from other people that it has helped them fill the void,” Logan said. “Some people describe the whole ‘cabin fever’ thing now that they’re stuck in their homes. It gives them something to be entertained with while being stuck at home and not doing anything else.”
At a time like this, where negativity can be so easily found at every corner, providing something on the opposite end of the spectrum can be good for people.
“It gives people something positive to look at,” Logan said. “It gives people something to care about besides the virus. I think it helps people quite a bit.”
Logan said his goals for the rest of the tournament are to continue to expand the viewership and spread the message of positivity out as far as possible. There are still plenty of people on the sub, which has more than 1.1 million subscribers, who are only now learning about Reddit March Madness. Ideally, after the second round this weekend, there won’t be too many left in the dark.
But as for his favorite part of this whole thing? Well, for any college basketball fan and lover of March Madness, it has to be the tournament itself. Maybe only an event as ridiculous and wacky as the Big Dance could be reasonably replicated in a video game.
“My favorite part really has been how the game has been somewhat realistic in terms of how close they resemble how March Madness would actually go,” he said. “In a usual March Madness tournament, you have some blowouts, and you also have some games where it was almost an upset but wasn’t. Then, of course you have upsets that do happen, like with Eastern Washington, Vermont and North Dakota State. I think my favorite part has been how realistic it is despite the fact that it’s a 13-year-old video game that’s doing all this.”
Be sure to follow along with Nothing But Nylon’s comprehensively exclusive* coverage of the 2020 Reddit March Madness.
* = this means you can’t sue me
Part of the proceeds from the sale of each #RedditMarchMadness t-shirt will go toward helping those in the basketball community affected by COVID-19. We will be partnering with non-profits like the Give and Go Foundation on the effort. If you know of a worthy group that could use some extra funds, please reach out.