You would be hard pressed to find a better week for sports fans than this one.
Spring training is in full swing, the regular seasons of the NHL and NBA have hit the home stretch, college hockey starts its playoffs and, oh by the way, we also get the most glorious 48 hours in sports: the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament. We'll all spend the first three days of the week pouring over the 65-team bracket, debating bubble teams and picking Cinderellas, devoting what most people would consider entirely too much time to making tournament predictions.
And here's the best part: when the horn sounds on Friday's final game, when the 32nd basketball game is done, almost all of our brackets will be in shambles.
That underdog you picked for the Elite Eight? Bounced in the first round. The powerhouse you thought was a lock for the Final Four? Gone before the Sweet Sixteen. Those hours you spent combing through every ESPN analyst's bracket? Lost forever.
Sure, filling out (and obsessing over) your bracket is a time-honored tradition of March Madness, but it takes away from the experience of watching the tournament. When you just watch the games you can appreciate them so much more than when you have a bracket.
I realize the appeal of NCAA tournament predictions: they give every fan a built-in rooting interest in each game (Wisconsin fans will give a damn about a game between UNLV and Northern Iowa when they have money riding on it) and inspire debates between just about everyone, regardless of their normal sports interests.
But over the past few years, filling out a bracket has done nothing but annoy me and detract from the fun of the tournament. I have an admittedly meager knowledge of college basketball, but I'd like to think I can do better than the last place finishes I've amassed in my most recent tournament pools.
Plus, pools and brackets deprive countless fans of the ability to just enjoy March Madness games for what they are—spontaneous and exciting. George Mason's run to the Final Four came in one of the best tournaments in recent history, and while people were excited to see an underdog do so well they were probably more than a little angry that it messed up their brackets.
By trying to pick ""the next George Mason"" and call the biggest upsets, we lose the exciting mystery of the tournament. Every once in a while we have the stones to call an upset, even less often we get that upset right and lord that over our friends for weeks, if not years, but more often the incentive is to pick (and cheer for) the favorites.
If some No. 13 seed was beating a No. 4, you can't cheer for the underdog since you're in a pool and that No. 4 has to make it into the Elite Eight because, damnit, you could really use $50. ""Bracket busters"" might make for fun stories, but they're a pain in the ass if you needed that high seed to advance.
That's why, this year, I'm dropping out of bracketology.
I'm still going to be part of a pool (I realize that's more than a little hypocritical, but hey – money's tight), but once I fill out my bracket the first time I'm done looking at it from that point on. No revisions, no second-thought picks, no obsessing, I'm not even going to check up on it during the tournament. Also I probably won't base my picks on basketball knowledge, mostly due to my lack of it, but also because that's failed me in the past.
Maybe this year, I'll pick winners based on who has the most badass mascot (other than Bucky, of course). That would explain my Final Four of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Oakland Golden Grizzlies, North Texas Mean Green and national champion Sam Houston Bearkats (yes, that's how they spell it).
Sorry, Richmond Spiders, I had to leave you out because those things scare the crap out of me.
Or perhaps it should be who has the best fight song (excluding On Wisconsin), which explains my 2010 national champion, Georgia Tech, and their song ""I'm a ramblin' wreck from Georgia Tech and I'm a helluva engineer / A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer / Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear / I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.""
Either way, it can't be any worse than how I've fared my last few years.
How should Nico pick his bracket and/or overcome his fear of spiders? Let him know at email@example.com.