I am a big sports fan. Of course, my first love is football (who doesn't love freakishly big people running around and hitting and tackling???), but I enjoy a good baseball or basketball game every now and then. Volleyball, tennis, golf, and the entirety of the Olympics keep my interest. (Nascar? Not so much.) I love watching sports.
There are a few cyclical high points to my sports year that get my heart racing and raise the excitement factor up a good notch or two. Of course, September through January that happens every Sunday and Monday night. (Have I mentioned that I love football?) Wimbledon in July is another must see, and I even get roped in to caring about the World Series every October. But March? Oh! March Madness is next only to the Super Bowl. It is madness in the good way.
I used to not care as much about March Madness until I stumbled upon this wonderful little thing called the March Madness bracket. A.k.a. "Bracketology". It is a delightful little cultural nuance known in most offices and among good friends, usually male. For those who aren't familiar with the joy one piece of paper can bring, the bracket is a listing of all the teams in the March Madness NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and you (Yes! It's participatory!) choose which teams will win in each round, right up to choosing the National Champion. It is amazing! And then - like icing on the cake - there are games ALL DAY LONG to watch on TV! Glory!
Being a stay at home mom, I don't run in as many sports enthusiastic circles as I used to (I don't run in any circle with actual people these days...). Then a few years ago after a decent showing in the Fantasy Football league, the folks at Mark's office decided to invite me to join their March Madness pool and fill out my own bracket.
At first I labored over all the stats and sample brackets online. It was fairly stressful. After a few years I developed my own system, much like my very individualized fantasy football drafting rules (no outstanding arrest warrants, no DUIs, no excessive celebration penalties, no Ohio State grads, and no leaving pregnant girlfriends for supermodels). My March Madness selection process isn't quite as evolved - at least not yet - but I do try and pick a few good upsets in the first round, I never allow Ohio State to go to the Final Four, and I try to avoid having all number 1 seeds in the last round (just seems so...predictable.).
This year as I started making my bracket selections, the phone rang. It was my very dearest friend, Angela - who is notoriously un-sports. While she initially called about something altogether different (the annual Ann and Ang vacation - woo!), I decided to take a totally new angle on this picking teams thing. Ang and I would fill out my bracket together.
(Did I mention that while she is uber cool and the best friend on the entire planet, she is ridiculously unschooled in the area of sports???)
Here are some snippets from our selection debates.
"I think we go with Louisville. They are close to the Zappos outlet."
"Not Baylor. I dated a guy who went there. He was a jerk."
"I'm sorry, but Ohio State can only make it to the Sweet 16, and that is even pushing it."
"I was offered a full scholarship to Michigan State - we should pick them!"
"OK, I know it's fun to say 'Gonzaga', but I don't think they are going to make the Final Four. We may need to go with someone else."
Of course, we had to move Xavier (from her 'hood) and Vanderbilt (from mine) along nicely in the bracket just out of sheer geographical loyalty. That, and I can actually name two players on the Vanderbilt team.
After all was said and done, we both felt pretty good about the bracket. Even if we don't win (and after the last hour, I have adjusted my expectations significantly), picking teams with Ang was totally worth the $10 in laughter and discussion I pay to enter the pool.
The best part is that Ang and I are going on vacation together and will get to update our bracket sitting side by side in a cabin that has good cable after many of these games.
No. Wait. The best part would be if we skunk all those number crunching men at Mark's office.
Yeah. That would rock.