Hello, college basketball fans. You’ve probably heard of the March Madness Boss Button. If not, let us explain. It’s the feature built into the March Madness Live streams online that helps you quickly hide the game(s) you’re watching from someone watching over your shoulder. Press the button, the live broadcast disappears, and is replaced by something that looks like “work”.
Here’s a brief history of what the March Madness boss button looked like over the years.
The computer boss button has a long and colorful history that stretches back to when Michael Jordan was a freshman at North Carolina. Home computer pioneer Roger Wagner is credited by several sources with inventing the boss button in 1982. Players who wanted to hide the fact that they were blowing up aliens in “Bezare” could press CTRL-B to quickly bring up this screen:
Howtogeek.com has this excellent overview of the boss button in computing, which also includes a link to For the Win’s history of the March Madness boss button.
Fast forward to when CBS debuted the March Madness boss button in 2006 to go along with the live stream. The first iterations were typical things you would see on office computers like Excel spreadsheets or graphs and charts:
2006 doesn’t sound that long ago. But to give you an idea of how long ago that really was — in digital years — let’s look at how the Chicago Tribune covered this new streaming thing:
The site will mainly operate on a first-come, first-served basis due to bandwidth limitations. Those unable to access the games when they log in will be placed in a “waiting room” where scores and tournament brackets are updated, and visitors will be informed when they can watch the match.
In fact, the amount of bandwidth used to watch video online can strain corporate networks, said Mike Hronek, a pre-sales network engineer for Vernon Hills-based CDW Corp.
“We will see a strain on networks if companies are not set up for this,” Hronek said. “These games start in the middle of the day. Early afternoon is the busiest time for corporate networks. If a company isn’t set up to eliminate this traffic, it can certainly slow down their traffic.”
As it continued to evolve, future iterations took a bit more chances when it came to making jokes. In 2010, Boss Button featured art from Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams. It also had a flow chart with jokes like “Keep doing nothing.” and “By beard and mumble jargon to seem indispensable.”
When Turner Sports took the lead on the button, the first couple of years took on the appearance of an email inbox. In 2013, the inbox became more interactive instead of just a still image. Fans can click around different messages and folders on the page before returning to the games:
As computers became more present in high school and college classrooms, students needed a way to hide the games when their teachers walked by.
Here is the 2015 version:
This added new layers to the Boss button, people could now choose from three presets “Work”, “Class” and “Home”.
The “Work” button will take you to a PowerPoint on how to hide a March Madness watch party. “Class” will take you to notepads on topics like “History of Modern Alliances” and how to pick a team to root for if yours didn’t make the tournament that year. “Home” will take you to a home page of a fake search engine.
These three would continue to change each year, with new topics and jokes being featured in each section.
In 2021, after video calls became the norm due to the pandemic, this year’s button took the form of a conference call with mascots from teams from around the country. Brutus from Ohio State, Big Jay from Kansas, Purdue Pete, Griff II from Butler and a few more appeared on the video. The crew even writes a few messages in the chat on the right side of the screen as Big Jay asks why he can’t hear anyone in the conversation.
2022’s boss button brought back the video call – with actor and comedian Tracy Morgan on the call.
2023’s version of the boss button is modeled after the chatbot in ChatGPT, which is believed to be the fastest growing computer application ever:
We asked ChatGPT what it thought of BossGPT before the 2023 tournament began. At first it wasn’t quite sure. However, we provided a URL and here’s what it said: “Based on the URL you provided, I believe you are referring to the boss button on the NCAA March Madness Live website. From what I understand, the boss button on this website is a fun and creative feature which can help users quickly switch to another screen or application that looks more professional or work-related, such as a spreadsheet or email inbox.The button looks like it has a humorous image of a generic boss figure, adding some personality and fun to the overall design of the site.”
We asked ChatGPT again about the boss button on the first Sunday of the 2023 tournament. It was more aware of it this time: