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Elegy to a Bracket

Monday, March 26, 2012, 19:47 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The team from that institution of higher learning that pretentiously refers to itself as The Ohio State University hammered the final nail into my NCAA Tournament bracket’s coffin Saturday evening when they beat Syracuse to advance to the college basketball Final Four. Each and every one of my initial picks has now been eliminated.

It was a humiliating death. I knew I was in trouble after the first round, from which only 23% of my teams emerged. Five made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Only two lasted until the quarterfinals. With every miserable game, I charted the carnage in red ink (appropriate, no?) on the printed bracket hanging outside my office. If you look up “ugly” in the dictionary, this is the image beside it:

My Bracket - Final Four (click to view larger)

And that, boys and girls, is why I don’t bet on sports.

I had a second bracket that did slightly better, with 63% of initial picks winning their first game and seven winning the next round. But that one is now deader than a doornail, too. In both, I had Michigan State to win it all. They didn’t even make it to the semis. Oops.

Not that it bothers me. Hell, I didn’t actually watch any of the games. In fact, I haven’t been emotionally invested in NCAA sports since my college hockey team won the national championship in 1985.

[Cue dream sequence music…]

We were riding a 30-game unbeaten streak but almost didn’t make it to the final—it took triple overtime to dispatch Minn-Duluth. (Our eventual finals opponent, Providence College, also won their semi in 3OT.) I wish I could say I was in Detroit to see it, but alas I was at home recovering from pneumonia and had to celebrate the championship from my parents’ family room couch.

That was the highlight of my life as a sports fan until the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. But I digress.

Having now done the bracket thang, I can’t say I get the attraction. Does anyone really get excited about teams they haven’t followed, have no connection to, and care about only because you happened to pick them in an abstract exercise? I doubt it. Take out those who have money riding on the results and my guess is most people follow the tournament because they think they should. Sorry, but I’ve never been that much of a lemming. Big basketball fans, the sort who are happy watching any game, any time, no doubt genuinely enjoy it. The rest are pretending.

And on that note, I take leave, ready to return attention to my own favorite sports. The Bruins, playing just .500 hockey in March, are somehow still #2 in the conference with only seven games left to play in the regular season. The Red Sox continue to stumble through spring training as they get ready for the season opener in ten days. My fantasy baseball draft is this weekend.

Those are the sporting events I really care about.

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