Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Madness of March

March Madness is upon us. After Christmas and possibly Halloween, this is truly one of my very favorite times of the year. I have spent every waking hour since 6:00pm Sunday evening perusing ESPN.com, SportsIllustrated.com, and CBSSports.com—attempting to assemble the perfect winning bracket. As usual, my family is doing our annual March Madness Bracket Challenge. One hundred and sixty dollars (at least—$180 if my brother holds true to form and fills out two brackets to increase his odds) is on the line. At some point, it is going to have to be my year to win it. I am hoping that the tides turn dramatically and this is my year. So, until the exact moment I am required to turn my bracket in, I will continue to tweak it. I will obsess about it. I will make myself crazy debating the 8-9 match-ups. I will try to use my impressive psychic powers to predict which #12 seed will beat a #5 seed—there's always at least one. Who will be this year's Cinderella team? Who will win it all? How far will Kentucky go before they crash and burn? Will I finally learn my lesson and not bank on Kentucky? Probably not.

Every year, my children are forced to watch basketball game after basketball game in March. They complain. They whine. They lament the utter unfairness of America's Funniest Home Videos being pre-empted by basketball. Quite frankly, their whining gets on my nerves. And it interferes with my focus and my complete and totally unhealthy obsession with the games.

This year, in an attempt to bring them into the fold—to try to ease the whiny tirades—I have decided to allow the children to fill out brackets. In actuality, it was Lucas' idea. He begged me to let him do a bracket this year. Of course, he is too young to gamble, so he will not be involved in our pool. But I had no problem with him picking teams and cheering along with the rest of us. He is a Ralph after all. Gambling is in his nature. It's the family business. Despite being a born and bred Midwesterner, he has Kentucky blue blood coursing through his veins. He may be the farthest thing from an athlete you'll ever find, but that blue blood has to count for something. Right? It's time to start grooming the next generation of poker-playing, basketball-loving, money-hungry Ralphs so that one day in the future, I can happily take their hard-earned cash.

So I printed a bracket and sat down last night to help Lucas pick his teams. He did amazingly well. He was thoughtful. He looked at rankings. He asked intelligent questions. He really pondered his picks before making them. His obsession didn't rise to my level, but he is young. He has plenty of time to develop my basketball-induced neuroses. His Final Four picks were, as follows: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and Wisconsin. Then he has Kentucky playing Kansas and Kentucky winning it all. Definitely a possibility—though perhaps not a probability. But decent picks all around.

Of course, because Lucas filled out a bracket, Sophie and Nicholas wanted to do one, as well. They were anything but thoughtful and intelligent in their picks. I read through each pairing one by one and had the kids pick the winning teams for each game. After a few games, I discovered a trend with Sophie's picks. No matter which two teams I listed—and no matter in which order I listed them—Sophie always picked the second team. As a result, I was able to manipulate her picks a bit. She ended up with an entirely feasible bracket. Her Final Four picks: North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, and Pitt. She then has Duke winning it all. Her rationale for picking Duke? It sounds like “Luke” and Luke is her brother she loves. Not exactly sound scientific reasoning, but that doesn't mean it won't be successful.

Nicholas was a different story altogether. His picks were random and based on the strangest set of criteria ever voiced in sports. He picked George Mason to go pretty far because he likes Curious George. He chose San Diego State because he is a fan of Diego (and Dora, for that matter). He picked Tennessee because he said he likes to play tennis on the Wii—Tennessee sounds strangely similar to TennisWii. Wisconsin was chosen because it is close to Minnesota. Kentucky was chosen because that is where his beloved Uncle Matt lives. He chose Louisville because, again, it is close to where Uncle Matt lives. When I asked him to choose between BYU and Wofford, he asked me what color their uniforms were. When I said that I was not entirely sure, he thought about it for a moment and then responded with, “Then I don't know who to pick.” I wrote down BYU. He has Akron winning several games. Long Island University beating North Carolina because he “likes islands.” In the end, he chose the following Final Four picks: Kentucky, Memphis, Louisville, and Utah State. Kentucky wins it all on Nicholas' bracket. I hope he is not too devastated when Utah State does not go to the Final Four. Then again, this is called March Madness for a reason. Utah State is a pretty good team. In a fairly weak region. Anything can happen in March. Right?

As a side note, I need to work with Lucas on his trash talk. His constant chants of "Bring it on!" (accompanied by the shaking of his hips and jazz hands in the air) just aren't going to cut it when he watches the games with Uncle Matt in Kentucky next week. I need to teach him to put a little more venom...and a little less showgirl...in his retorts.


Jessica said...

What a crack up! I spend about five minutes on my brackets. The last time I won was the last time UK won the whole thing. I did two brackets--one of them I SLAVED over, thought, studied, pondered, analyzed, etc. That was going to be my gold mine. The second bracket I went with the Love/Hate theory. As in "oh, I don't like them, they lose" (with some room for reality, I could go for 16 vs. 1 upsets). THAT was the bracket that won me all the marbles. So I now stick with that approach. This year it is UW all the way!!! Good luck to you guys. I'm going to chuckle if one of your children beats you. ;)

Megan Jones said...

Even though I am a big fan come tournament season, I've never filled out a bracket. :-) But I love reading your blog post about it!

Madgew said...

I love the above comment-even spam on personal bloggers.

I made my picks in under 3 minutes because I know nothing about any team and don't even watch. But I go to a house down the street that has homemade bleachers in his den for this event with 4 TV's going and quite the fun. I won't confirm my picks until I go over it one more time.

Meg said...

We have a contest in our house and the winner gets to pick where we go to dinner. Each year a different kid wins. I think in 12 years I have only won once - but it keeps it fun and helps them to be a little interested in the games. Good luck!

Barb said...

Of course Nicholas is right. How can he pick if he doesn't know the team colors? Sam would agree. He always roots for red or green (since Mommy is a UW-Madison alumni who grew up in Green Bay). Every year that WI is in it, I make my picks with my heart in their region. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes not. I've got Ohio State going all the way, and my upset is Notre Dame to take it all. (I think Pitt will fall early - Sorry, Mr. President I disagree.) I LOVE march madness, and every year it makes me miss my father. Here's hoping Sammy and Eva learn to love it too.

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