Saturday, March 19, 2016

NCAA Tournament Brackets: A Travesty to Tradition

If you are like everyone else who filled out a March Madness tournament bracket, and is currently lamenting his or her bad fortune (who exactly is Stephen F. Austin, anyway?), I have a message for you.

Give up. Quit. You're not gonna win the million bucks. And no one cares, really, about your bracket.

Typically, this is a time where die hard experts to casual fans to Mary from Accounting all throw their hats in the ring for a shot at having the best bracket and bragging rights for the better part of the spring.

Yes, NCAA Tournament brackets have taken hold of the very fabric of our pop culture basketball society.

And they are evil with a Capitol E!

It is estimated that the NCAA Tournament costs businesses over $134 million in lost wages and another $1.7 billion in potential productivity. (Sources: Time Magazine and NBC News) Most of those amounts are consumed during the tourney's first two days, as games air during prime working hours.

Honestly, I have no problem with the lost employee hours. In fact, I will be glued to my March Madness iPhone app at work just like most other fans. I find no evil in that aspect of the NCAA Tournament brackets at all. Rather, it is the reason that I watch that sets me apart from the sinister singletons who carry around highlighters and printed off brackets during the weeks of March and early April.

There is a certain tradition to college basketball that I adhere to. And in my mind, NCAA Tournament brackets are a real affront to my observance of this three-week-long holiday.

Give any corporation or entity a chance to monetize something and it will. Much like Thanksgiving and Christmas, March Madness has turned into one large commercial, with TV timeouts every four minutes. I mean, how many times can we bear hearing about "A tradition like no other," before we go crazy? (This message brought to you by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, a corporate sponsor of the NCAA. Enterprise: We'll Pick You Up.)

Even so, I am capitalist at heart, so I do find a way to endure the seemingly endless barrage of advertisements, especially when I know that my one shining moment is right around the corner.

And here are my shining moments.

I love rooting for my team to win it all, while also cheering against my arch nemesis. I live and die with every do-or-die game, breathing a most-serious and sincere sigh of relief when my squad survives and advances, and turning certifiably depressed when it loses. Do I need a bracket to enhance my enjoyment of these moments? No, no, and heck no.

Further, every March, I find the physical and moral energy to put my bracket aside and watch the games for what they are. I relish in every thrilling buzzer beater and inspirational Cinderella story. This to me is much more fulfilling than languishing in the fact that my Midwest bracket is now shot. So instead of being concerned that my pick, Monster State U, is only two points up on Podunk State, I can sit and watch with childlike excitement the wonder that is a closely contested basketball game.

NCAA Tournament Bracket apologists claim that office pools and the like serve to keep more people interested in the tournament. Interested? Any true college basketball fan will be on the edge of his or her seat throughout the proceedings of March Madness no matter what.

Okay. Before I come off as all holier-than-thou, I must admit that I do fill out a few on-line brackets every spring. It is a million dollars after all, and this just might finally be my year. I am not so hypocritical that I cannot openly admit that.

However, I do not make bracketology the purest source of enjoyment and engagement during March Madness. And I rarely get disgruntled if my picks do not go as planned. What I will say is this: If North Carolina loses and Duke keeps winning, then I will be sincerely angry and upset.

And then it's Opening Day of Major League Baseball, and I feel better.

Do you succumb to the siren song of the NCAA Tournament bracket? Let me know your bracket experiences on Twitter @coachdarin22.

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