Tip off to the Final Four®

A look at the weekend's wild events and Capital One's celebration of you, the fan.

Ah, March. The month that basketball fans just can't seem to get enough of. A time when millions of fanatics around the nation fill out their brackets at a feverish pace before tuning in to watch March Madness® unfold. Week after week of nail-biting free throws and unexpected buzzer beaters. The culmination of which, is being settled in San Antonio, TX—during the Final Four® games of the NCAA® Men's Basketball Championship. For many, catching the action on TV might be enough to satiate their fandom. But for a devoted few, the desire to be a part of the big dance is too great to pass up.

But, what is it that drives legions of sports fans to follow these spectacles so intensely? Why spend the time and money on tickets, travel, and team paraphernalia just to catch a glimpse of the game in person? And perhaps most importantly, what would possess someone to voluntarily paint their face? The answer might be in how we're wired.

"There are a lot of psychological factors that go into why we follow teams so passionately," says psychologist and San Antonio resident, Kevin Pernicano, Ph.D. "Sometimes it's as simple as appealing team colors, a fascination with an athlete or a hometown association."

Family, and a longtime love for the home team, drove Geoff Beyer to the tournament this year. "My Dad and I went to the Final Four a few years ago," recalls Beyer. "And when earlier rounds of the tournament were held in a nearby city with our favorite team, we figured we'd make the trip again. We don't spend a lot of time together just the two of us, so it gave us a great excuse to share something."

Whatever the reason, Capital One gets it. And as the Corporate Champion of the NCAA and Final Four, they've kicked things up a notch and made this year's Final Four festivities just as much a celebration of you, the diehard sports fan, as they are about college basketball.

The weekend leading up to the national championship game is sure to captivate fans of all ages, with a jam-packed lineup of live music, family-friendly activities, and engaging events. It starts Friday, when Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One takes over 40,000 square feet of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, turning it into a full-fledged sports wonderland. Filled wall-to-wall with games, sponsorship activations, celebrity and athlete autograph sessions, prize giveaways and more, the convention center is the place to be during Final Four weekend.

Some of the booths include the NCAA® Official Store, where fans can purchase official tournament gear to commemorate their trip. The Final Four Fan Zone, where legends of the game meet and greet with some of their most ardent supporters. And the Capital One Fan Zone, which celebrates all of college athletics with a wide-range of sport-themed activities.

On top of all that, fans will have a chance to interact at the Capital One #FanAntonio booth. The massive display is the epicenter of financial technology and sports. Through immersive video games, fans have the opportunity to come face-to-face with the type of products that make it even easier for people to engage with their money. As an added bonus, Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One gives cardholders some extra love with exclusive benefits available only to them, like free admission for two, early entry on Friday and Saturday morning, and priority access lanes that put you at the front of line.

Outside, the party rolls on with the March Madness Music Festival at San Antonio's Hemisfair. For three straight days, the outdoor concert series will feature performances from some of the nation's hottest live music acts with headliners Maroon 5 closing out the show on Sunday evening during Capital One JamFest.

In addition to the free concert, Capital One cardholders can also take advantage of a private, two-story covered patio throughout the music festival. Known as the Cardholder Lounge, it sits directly in front of the stage, providing cardholders with special access to some of the best views in the house. It also features a full bar, comfortable seating, complimentary food and beverages, and appearances from a few celebrity guests.

No matter how you spin it, the weekend's events are the perfect pregame activity to the championship showdown. And for avid sports fans, being in the heart of the action during these big games are a rite of passage. It's an experience that can never be replicated, and according to Dr. Pernicano, lives at the core of our being. "I think it's human nature to live vicariously through these teams' accomplishments and their victories. In many ways it helps satisfy our own competitive drive."

That's the allure of events like the Final Four. For many fans, it doesn't matter how far their team actually makes it in the tournament. It's about being swept up in the hysteria and enjoying every second of it. Even if—in Beyer's case—you're on the losing end. "I witnessed the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history, and it was so much cooler than I would have expected," he said. "Sure, it's never fun to see your favorite team lose, but knowing that I was there for such a historical moment, it's definitely a tale to tell."

The intensity and raw emotion of the game is what sports fans live for. "You know brackets are going to bust and you know the tournament will probably go in a much different direction than expected, which it did," said Beyer. "But it changes the experience when you're actually a part of it. The whole environment - the energy and the excitement of it all, it's just completely different than watching at home. You can't beat it."

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