March Madness hits Congress

It’s that time of year again, college basketball’s monthlong national championships, better known as March Madness. And members of Congress aren’t immune to the frenzy. 

Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said Tuesday that he would like to see a Final Four of Baylor, UConn, Stanford and Georgetown. As for his hometown University of Missouri Tigers, Clay took a realistic view about the team’s chances. “Mizzou? They’re not going that far.” 

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was even more realistic about the chances for his alma mater, the University of Maryland. The Terps men’s team didn’t make the tournament, but Hoyer said he still had hope for the Lady Terps. “I think they’ll make it to at least the Elite Eight,” he told ITK.

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Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) will be looking to the nation’s basketball-fan-in-chief, President Obama, for his picks. “I plan to closely follow the president’s lead,” he said. Obama made his picks this week for ESPN, selecting all No. 1 seeds (way to go out on a limb, Mr. President). So Green will be rooting for Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) took a slightly different path on Wednesday, choosing her homestate UNC men’s team to beat Pittsburgh in the championship game, by a score of 72-68.

More than a few members begged off making predictions when ITK caught up with them, including Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Steve King (R-Iowa). 

Freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) said he’ll be the neutral party in his congressional office. “I’ve got Michigan State and University of Michigan alums on my staff, and they’re getting pretty excited for the tournament.” Clarke, a graduate of Cornell, said that despite that, there will be no basketball games on the office TV.

But in the digital age, TV isn’t the only place sports fans turn for highlights. ESPN.com’s Web traffic traditionally gets a big boost during March Madness, jumping 34 percent in March of 2009, according to Nielsen. 

One place all that traffic won’t be coming from this year is the Department of Defense, which announced Wednesday that it was blocking ESPN.com’s website, along with a number of streaming sites like YouTube and Pandora, in order to preserve bandwidth for Japan disaster-relief efforts. No word on when the ban will be lifted. The NCAA men’s national championship game is April 4.