I’ve always viewed March as a rather lackluster month – it’s always cold, rainy, long, and there never seems to be much to look forward to. Upon a closer look, however, March actually has a lot to offer – Spring Break, St. Paddy’s Day, the Ides of March (anyone?), the occasional early Easter, and most importantly…March Madness.
For three weeks, beginning in mid March and continuing into the first week of April, Americans nationwide absolutely lose their shit over the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, most likely because it combines two of our favorite pastimes – college sports and gambling.
It’s hard to go anywhere in the days leading up to the tournament (beginning March 17) without hearing talks of brackets pools, and even if you’re even just a bandwagon fan like me, it’s quite easy to get swept up into the madness.
With the biggest state universities and small colleges alike competing for the coveted championship title, everyone from high school girls to partners in law firms get outrageously invested in a competition of their own.
Personally, I’ve been filling out brackets since I was a kid, and admittedly have never had much success, despite hours of intensive research. My most memorable experience occurred my junior year of high school when forty students at my all girls Catholic high school put $5 a piece into an underground pool and absolute chaos ensued.
Last year, frustrated with the constant unpredictability of the bracket making process, I decided to take a completely new, completely stupid approach – leave it all up to chance. That’s right, I channeled my inner Harvey Dent and flipped a coin to determine a winner for every. single. game. Although I may be ridiculous, I’m not completely brain-dead, and I didn’t put any money on this bogus bracket. I simply wanted to see if my decisions even had any input on the madness of these matchups.
I started out shockingly strong – by the grace of God, the master coin had all 4 number one seeds winning the first round. And remember when number 14 Georgia State upset number 3 Baylor? Yeah, I had that. However, I knew I would inevitably run into trouble in the long run – the coin predicted heavy favorite Kentucky falling in the Elite Eight and well, I had to sheepishly tell people that I had Iowa winning it all – “stranger things have happened okay?!” With nothing to lose, I found myself laughing with satisfaction when the chance of anyone having a “perfect bracket” was ruled out after just a few days and, similarly, when Duke, known for choking under pressure, surprised many by clinching the national championship. Even though my once miracle bracket crashed and burned pretty quickly, I actually came out just under .500 overall, making my argument fairly convincing.
This year, there are four new number one seeds – Virginia (Midwest), UNC (East), Kansas (South), and Oregon (West). All of these have been known to be powerhouses in the past, and yet there is no clear favorite, and none of them can even be guaranteed to make it to the Sweet 16. As always, there’s also an array of underdog teams, including the returning Stephen F. Austin team, first time contender Stony Brook University, and maybe even Holy Cross. (Okay, they probably have no chance of beating Oregon, but I have to shoutout my hometown college.)
The fact of the matter is this: you can spend hours filling out your bracket or leave it completely up to chance and still only have a one and 9.2 QUINTILLION chance of perfectly predicting the outcome of each of the 63 games (Although if you do, Warren Buffet will give you a billion dollars.)
So why do we do this to ourselves, even if we couldn’t care less about these teams the other 49 weeks of the year? It’s frustrating, emotionally draining, and it sucks up all of your phone battery as you try to watch the games in live time during lectures. Maybe we do it because we all want to believe we can be that one in 9.2 quintillion. Or maybe because it gives us something to root for in the interval between football and baseball seasons. Whatever your reason, be it for fun or for money, I think we can all agree that it is a distinctly American tradition that finds its way into our lives each year and turns the nation upside down, bringing us to ecstatic highs and heartbreaking lows.
When it comes to March Madness, it’s truly anyone’s game. Expect BC. We really suck.