Always up for a bit of family competition we have competed against each other in the Marocco Mayhem – NCAA March Madness bracket for the past couple of years. This year Papa joined us with his picks and the stakes were even bigger than just competing for family fun. Like millions of others we took our time choosing the right teams we were certain one of us was bound to have the perfect bracket and win Warren Buffet’s $1,000,000,000.00.
Our family bracket is a small sample of most office or friendly bracket pools. Some people in our family follow college basketball; they watch games and closely follow stats for the entire season. They are aware of which players are hot for the tournament and who is currently fighting an injury. They follow the coaches to know who has carried their team to the end in the past. They know who plays well together and who buckles under pressure and who fights as the underdog. They are able to make a fairly educated guess of how the tournament will play out. I am not in this group….
Then we have the middle group. They follow some games and see a few sports highlights on the evening news. They know a handful of teams well enough to carry on a conversation and are even able to throw a few players or coaches’ names around. They have allegiances to their alma maters, but don’t necessarily follow the complete lineup of this year’s top 64. They want to know the teams, but really don’t have the time and/or energy to commit to “know all about it”. So, they are able to make a somewhat informed guess as they fill in their brackets. I wish I were in this group…
We also have the guessers. People like me. I admit it; I look at two teams, look at their ranks, and flat-out guess. Team A sounds better than team B, or I like orange over blue or that is a fun city, or I know someone who went to school there. Sure us guessers might recall a bit of a conversation, (especially when it is repeated numerous times by others who think we are not listening) such as Virginia has a great team this year, that has not happened since Ralph Sampson in the early eighties or it is a great year for the Big 10 (or 12 or 14…) this year, but none of that plays a part in our picks. For me it really is just a guess.
We explained the bracket to Papa and we had every intention of sitting at the computer with him while he made his picks. His main concern was who do I pay, how much is it, and what do we win? Time got the best of us and before we knew what happened it was 12:55 on March 20th, and we had five minutes to get Papa’s picks in. He had just left an appointment and was in the car with Doug so we put him on speakerphone while I ran through the bracket asking him his picks. I would name two teams and Papa would give me his winner. Unfazed that time was not on his side I kept trying to speed things along but Papa would not be rushed. He took his time asking me to repeat some of the match-ups and meticulously exaggerating each name in his response back to me adding extra syllables. Flo-ree-a-da. Con-nect-tic-cut. Syr-cues. Oh-ka-la-ho-ma. Virginia. Michigan State. Michigan. You already said Michigan, why are there two Michigans? To speed things up I said Tiara’s school and the other Michigan. Where is Baylor? Lou-S-ville. Chrig-ton, never heard of them. Christina’s school plays Tiara’s school that is a hard one to choose… I still am amazed at how we went through an entire bracket in 5 minutes.
Every year there is a fairy tale story during March Madness, an upset or underdog who fights his way to the final games. Papa chose well, he was the big upset in our league, our Cinderella. The time was slowly ticking down, Papa had already lost his size 11.5EEE glass leather slipper as he was running away from the ball another appointment, and he took the league as the top winner. He may not have won a billion dollars, but he beat the people who follow college basketball, the people who want to follow college basketball and he also beat the rest of us. Success!
Endnote: Why does March Madness end in April? Maybe a better name would be Spring Psychosis.