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Every March I go through a familiar routine. As a man of the south, routine is comfort and change is scary. Much like a regular morning cup of coffee, my usual go at March Madness goes almost exactly the same every single year.
During conference tournament weekend, I watch my fair share of basketball, which is usually my first extended look at the sport aside from the occasional few minutes of a Saturday night game or a Duke-UNC matchup. Then the brackets come out, and via a combo of texts and tweets I whiningly let everyone know “I don’t know why I’m even going to bother filling one out. Just take my money on this wasted bracket.”
Is it to try to cushion myself from eventual disappointment and humiliation? Obviously. I pride myself on being a competitive individual; I’d be fucking pissed at coming in last in anything, no matter how little I follow it.
So I fill out my bracket, pulling up the match-up data and whimsically falling in love with teams. “Ranked 7th in the country in defensive points allowed per game AND playing in a tough conference? Great upset pick,” I’ll stupidly tell myself as I advance a team who I forget switched conferences three years ago. This goes on until finally I’ve talked myself into a national champion who I’ve then cursed into a 1st round upset. I credit solely my heavy hand for the Duke loss vs 15-seed Norfolk St. in 2012.
By the time that first tournament day rolls around, I’ve foolishly sold myself on hopes and dreams that maybe I made the right call and this one is a winner. In 48-96 hours, that hope comes crashing down like Enron stock. At first it stings internally like I drank bleach, and even hearing the words “How’s your bracket doing?” gives me instant PTSD. But after reality sets in, I realize I’m better for it. I knew I was going to lose, deservedly so, and now I can enjoy the rest of the tournament with no stress and no constant bracket checking.
Except…that’s not my reality this year. The Sweet Sixteen is set and your boy is right in the thick of things; not at the top of the points list, but most possible points remaining in both my pools. That’s too much hope for comfort and it’s got me on edge. Normally I’d have three days just eagerly waiting for some quality basketball games; now, however, I’ve got skin in the game with a bracket that’s still alive. I’m a bit shook.
I’ve been like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, just going about my routine like clockwork, every year the same. However, with my bracket pulling an Adam Sandler and trying to creepily seduce me into something I know really shouldn’t work, I’m a little unsettled. Something tells me I won’t wake up pregnant in the arctic counting my bracket winnings; only crying on the floor after the national championship game.
Should I go about my normal routine like nothing has happened? Probably. But, there’s that voice in the back of my head. That one screaming “You’ve still got 7/8th’s of your Elite Eight in, you’ve almost hit payday!” If that voice sounds familiar, it’s because you know it too. That same voice is what told you that you might pass the multiple choice test that you primarily guessed on, or that the cop you just passed doing 15 over isn’t going to come after you. It’s the voice of false hope, and I know it.
However, I’m hooked. I’ve bought into hope. Yeah I picked these teams on a whim and this is sure as hell going to shit the bed on me like an infant with diarrhea, but I can’t help but hold out that maybe things go like I picked em. For me, March Madness always used to stand for simply 2-4 days of being literally mad in March, but at least for this week, I’m uncertainly walking on the tight rope to the light at the end of the tunnel. .
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