Walk up to a stranger who knows nothing of the chicanery and heartbreak we call March Madness and tell them you’re a bracketologist. They may form a rather flattering and highly incorrect picture in their mind. Listening simply to the scientific sounding name, people are more likely to assume you own a Phd from Princeton or Yale than a life of sorting the RPIs of Wofford and Pepperdine.
How does one even become a Bracketologist? Are there courses out there? Can I declare KenPom and Sagarin studies as my double minor? Or is it simply a matter of hours? If a hundred hours of super smash bros melee-ing earned us the right to play as Mewtwo, perhaps endlessly watching Tar Heels, Hoyas, Wahoos and Utes makes one the ultimate authority on everything bracket.
It is clear to us March Madness victims That the Bracketologist is no scientist at all. You trusted the Bracketologist when you argued vigorously against various acquaintances that Temple would be in the first four. You believed the Bracketologist when he told you to put Iowa State in your final four. When you eventually lose your bracket challenge, office pool or remaining scraps of sports fan pride, you will curse the ‘Palm readers’ and ‘Joey Brackets’ for deceiving you, hoping to sue them for ‘bracketeering.’
Hey, at least the people who listen to the experts have someone to blame besides their own inadequate, and quickly greying, head. The rest of you denounced the Bracketologist’s pseudo science and embraced a more creationist method. Hell, you’re just as smart as some sports nerd with a byline right? And so you carved your wayward path to the final four that was paved with the likes of UC Irvine (because they have a really tall dude) and Davidson (because Steph Curry’s still in college right?). How’d that work out for you? Despair, regret and an endless supply of Alanis Morissette albums? yeah, that’s about right.
But you didn’t need me to tell you how that story played out. You already knew. In fact you knew a week ago, when you hemmed and hawed over Purdue/ Cincinnati, teetered and tottered over Ohio State/ VCU or eeni meeni minied and moed over NC state/ LSU. You knew that March Madness would soon become a march to the liquor cabinet to drown your sorrows and smash the Baylor shot glasses you thought were such a good idea at the time. March Madness is an inevitable disappointment every year. The only people who come out happy are casinos and over-priced grief counsellors.
I don’t mean to patronize. In fact I feel nothing but empathy towards you. I’m a (not so) proud owner of 16 brackets, all of which were dead after the second game on Thursday. After the all-nighters on team stream, wasted Saturday afternoons watching conference tournaments, and enough sleep deprivation to think Doug Gotlieb had all the answers, I created a bracket that gave me a rather depressing resolution: I will never go 63 for 63.
If the first step is admitting I have a problem, then I am 1/12 of the way to a peaceful spring. Why research the history of 12/5 upsets, title winning coaches without I’s in their name (none), or why Virgina is sometimes called the cavaliers and sometimes called the Wahoos (missheard song lyrics)? I have just as much of a chance to win my bracket pool by picking each round based on the team with a menacing mascot, most hyphenated last names, or highest ranked jeer of January. The day I record a perfect bracket is the same day that Gonzaga stops sounding cool, March Madness has no teams named ‘Wildcats,’ and Jay Wright has bad hair.
If your bracket pool is still within reach, power to you, but more likely you’re wallowing in self pity and licking your wounds. In that I will join you. After all I still have 11 months to recuperate my unfounded confidence. And with that, I have little left to offer you outside of sympathy for your predictable plight and a lighter to burn your latest March mistake.
To the novice, the ‘expert’ and the ameteur Bracketologist, I wish you good luck, good basketball and mild debt. See you next March.