Don’t fill out a bracket this year.
It’s a hard habit to break, I know. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is the best. Sixty-eight teams of amateur athletes competing in single-elimination, do-or-die games, all condensed into two and a half weeks? I’m not sure if any single sporting event can compete with that.
So it won’t be easy to resist printing a bracket out Selection Sunday, but believe me; it’ll be worth it. While everyone else moans about their shredded bracket and how their Final Four pick lost in the second round, you’ll be relishing in the Madness, the real joy of sports.
It goes beyond spiting the NCAA, the organization so concerned with The Integrity of The Game™ that it (until recently) micromanaged what players put on their bagels, yet actively promotes widespread legalized betting on those same cream cheese-less, unpaid athletes and then reaps the rewards of the increased exposure. Bracketology and all the rest of the bracket-picking media frenzy work as free advertising for the NCAA (which falls somewhere between the NSA and FIFA on the crooked organizations list, FIFA being the worse of thetwo, obviously). Why be complicit in that?
The biggest barrier for quitting my bracket habit was how fun it was to have a rooting stake in every single game, along with everyone else in my pool, even between teams I’d never watched. Admittedly, this made the tournament as a whole more interesting.
But as the competition went on, having every game picked impeded me rooting for the Wichita States and Butlers of the world. Instead, I was usually stuck rooting for smart picks, but boring style, teams (looking at you Big Ten Conference).
The best thing about watching the tournament bracketless is simple: root for the team you want to win, not the team you think will win. It’s that same concept that underpins why watching sports is fun in the first place. Letting rooting interests develop organically is so much more enjoyable than pushing for calculated predictions. Wouldn’t you have rather rooting for Florida Gulf Coast University, rather than lamenting the loss of your — okay, my — Final Four pick, Georgetown?
To be fair, it took me three years of saying I was going to quit filling out a bracket until I actually did, so I don’t expect this column to convince anyone immediately
I’m just saying that now that I have ditched my bracket, it’s really nice not to have to rationalize why my favorite team will make it farther than they should or to pick some team I don’t like to win because they shoot the three and rebound well, and because Jay Bilas said so. Plus, if Wisconsin screws me over one more time, I don’t know if I can budget paying for a new window. Or a new laptop. Okay, maybe that’s a whole different issue.
Anyways, maybe not this year and maybe not next, but eventually, try taking a year off from bracketmania and see how you like rooting for college kids playing basketball unencumbered by how it affects your office pool.
Plus, you know you’re going to lose your pool to the girl who picked her bracket based on the mascot.