I am many things: wife, mother, journalist, basketball fan, lover of guacamole (the real stuff, not the store-bought kind).
But, there’s something I’m not and that’s a bracketologist.
Every year, it’s the same paralyzing March Madness stress: 64 teams, 64 RPIs (and I don’t even know what those letters stand for), all stacked on an intimidating grid with too many fill-in-the-blanks, and a million 64 opinions on who will end up dancing in the Final Four.
(Am I even allowed to say “Final Four”? That’s the other panic-inducing thing — those stringent NCAA copyright rules. Heck, their lawyers may already be sending me a cease-and-desist order for my “March Madness” reference above!)
This year was no better.
On Thursday morning, I had only three hours to complete the daunting task I had procrastinated for three days. “Bracket block” is 64 times worse than the most crippling case of writer’s block, believe me.
(At this juncture, let me state for the record that I perform this annual exercise to challenge and amuse myself, not for personal gain, monetary or otherwise. I do this because everyone else does it (again, not for monetary gain – nobody I know, anyway – not around here – in Vegas, maybe – you know, where it’s legal) and I could never resist peer pressure.
Finally, I came up with a bracketology strategy. I even game it a name: straw grasping.
First, I read my horoscope.
On Thursday, it said:
“Being obsessive about relationships is what scares people away. Either you yourself, or someone you're involved with, is becoming particularly demanding or probing. Sometimes it's best to step away and not entangle yourself in these sorts of mental dilemmas. Sure, relationships should be serious, but they should also be fun and relaxed and based on trust.”
Interesting, I thought, but not much help on the road to the you-know-what.
Then, I considered using my method of picking racehorses. Forget odds and track records, I place my bets on clever names, pretty jockey silks or lucky post numbers. (Not that this is a betting situation, at all. I’m just drawing a comparison. And, no, I’m not winking. That’s just a twitch in my right eye. Now, leave me alone!)
Unfortunately, there are no jockeys in basketball and way too many names and numbers. I considered voting (a much better word choice) for teams based on the most elaborate player tattoos, but that would require extensive research and I didn’t have time.
I know, I thought! I’ll simply choose the mightier mascot in each contest. But, even that was problematic. To wit:
Mountain Hawks vs. Jayhawks? Putting my allegiance aside, I assumed a mountain hawk can fly and is conditioned for high altitudes. But, the Jayhawk is a mythical bird (read: magic) and the elevation of Oklahoma City is just 1,200 feet. Still, it was a toss up.
Then, there was K-State vs. North Texas. Could the Mean Green beat the Wildcats just because it says they’re mean on their jerseys? And, by the way, Mean Green… what? Like, Fighting Machine? Because a fighting machine could probably take out a wildcat, but if not…
And, there was the dilemma of Missouri and Clemson, each team full of Tigers! How was I supposed to predict survival of the fittest?
The plan would never work.
With time running out, I hastily made two arbitrary rules:
No. 1: If I hadn’t heard of school before, they would lose. Period.
No. 2: I would use President Obama’s picks to fill in the blanks, changing two or three outcomes so no one could accuse me of being a copycat. And because, let’s face it, the guy hasn’t had the best run of luck, lately.
(Did I mention I do this strictly for fun? Fun and office camaraderie, that’s what it's all about. ‘Just thought I'd reiterate, for the record and all.)
Of course, by Thursday night, a mere 12 hours after I filled out the paperwork, the Bobcats had beaten the Hoyas, the Huskies devoured the Golden Eagles and the Racers left the Commodores in their dust (wouldn’t you know that was one Presidential pick I ignored?)
My bracket was toast. All bets were off.
(Not that there were any bets, mind you. That was just a figure of speech and a common one, at that. And, no, I wasn’t kidding. My eye twitches like this all time.)