Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Busted Bracket Means More NCAA Tournament Enjoyment

 I used to sweat over my NCAA Tournament bracket. I filled out test brackets, modified them, recalculated them, threw them out and started over, and spent ten minutes trying to figure out which 12 seed would upset which 5, and which 8/9 team could really give a one seed a challenge. I spent a long time staring at each matchup.

And of course, by the time Sunday night on the first weekend rolled around, if I was fortunate I'd only lost Final Four pick and maybe a couple of Elite 8's and look at that, 12 of my Sweet 16 got through!

One year I didn't get my bracket into the office pool in time, or there wasn't an office pool, or something like that, and I worried. What about my bracket? Who was I competing against aside from the random millions on ESPN.com or Yahoo?

I was forced to- gasp- just watch the games without any money or big prestige riding on my picks.

And I enjoyed it. I had a feeling I got from watching the tournament in previous years, but I couldn't remember why. All I could remember was the angst of hoping that my bracket wouldn't bust.

Then it came to me- it was the feeling I got after my bracket busted and I was just watching the games. It was a feeling of relief, that the busted bracket freed me from having to be right.

I haven't cared about winning a bracket since. (And yes, I have done better in my brackets since then.)

So if you did spend an inordinate amount of time filling out your bracket, allow me to hope that your bracket busts sooner than later, so that you can enjoy the tournament earlier than usual.

Once The Madness moved back to just being about the games and not about how good I was picking the games, I rediscovered the reason I like watching the tournament in the first place- it's about my team winning, of course, but it's also about the excitement of the games for kids who are playing on a stage they will never have again in their lives. (Side note worth yet another reminder: CBS/Turner is paying a billion dollars to broadcast these games and the kids get none of it. The chancellors and athletic directors and coaches and anybody on the staff and everybody except the players get money and bonuses for appearing in the tournament and the kids get nothing.)

It's about those reactions when they win, or when they lose- and instead of being these programmed robots to just play the game, they remind us that they are people and they are way more excited to be there than we can even imagine.

So go, fill out a bracket or six. Get in that office pool. But don't let that bracket's performance dictate how much you enjoy the tournament. It's three of the greatest weeks in sports. Before your bracket busts, set yourself free to enjoy The Madness.

Enjoy your March.

illustration: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link