Once again, it’s that special time of year when the polished professionals in the NCAA marketing department manage to make a few hundred million Americans passionate about college basketball. Perhaps so many of us herald the coming of March Madness because we know that when the tournament is over, Spring will have officially arrived on the calendar. Never mind that there may still be frost on the fauna and white stuff on the ground. When the champion is crowned, we know the sun is finally on our side of the globe.
It’s always fun to fill out a tournament bracket even if you don’t ever watch a single second of hoops. You don’t have to know a dribble from a dunk or a step-back jumper from a sky hook to participate in office, family, or friend’s pools. Often there is a modicum of moola involved in this pursuit, but sometimes it’s just bragging rights and perhaps a tacky trophy that goes to the winner.
For those totally involved in the sport, it probably takes three or four hours to fill out a bracket. Most pool participants, however, likely spend somewhere around six minutes filling in team picks. But that doesn’t stop everyone from vociferously rooting for those cagers they’ve chosen. Once they’ve made their selections, especially if they’ve gone with a Cinderella team or two, it’s actually kind of fun to be backing a team such as Grand Canyon that has Thunder the Antelope as a mascot. Or St. Mary’s and its Rattler Man. Or perhaps even Kennesaw State and Scrappy the Owl.
By the time this column is read, the thrill of being in the tournament for many schools will already be history. Thursday and Friday games cut the field down quickly. With its “one and done” format, when a team loses, it goes home. But for a lot of players, just being part of the “dance” is a season highlight. And making it to the Round of 16, the Elite Eight, or the Final Four can be a lifelong memory for teams and the fans who root for them.
Given the popularity of March Madness, the fun of filling out a bracket, and hopefully the success of picking more winners than your best friend, I’m wondering if the concept of bracketology might be used in other arenas. Certainly, the political space comes to mind. Maybe both the Republican and Democratic Parties could create their own brackets featuring candidates for President in 2024. You’d definitely have some favorites and longshots in the field, much as the basketball tournament does. Contenders could be ranked similar to the hoopsters. Right now, for example, Biden and Trump would be seeded #1 in their respective brackets. But there could certainly be dark-horse competitors whose names would appear as #16 seeds.
One fun “tournament” drawn from current events headlines could be which banks will fail and which ones will survive. If a pool featuring financial institutions had been put together two weeks ago, I imagine a lot of brackets would have been “busted” by Silicon Valley Bank. In this scenario, community banks would probably be considered the least likely to survive the current economic chaos, but just as a low-seeded basketball team might get hot at the right time and make it to the Final Four, those local money repositories might be around when the dust has settled. And who knows what might happen to the big institutions. The House of Representatives has asked Bank of America for records relating to Hunter Biden’s businesses. And how many financial establishments do Donald Trump’s enterprises rely on? You see how much fun this game could be?
How about a bracket featuring the potential countries that Vlad “The Mad” Putin might invade? Moldova would probably be a #1 seed. Belarus and Kazakhstan would certainly get high numbers as well. But what about Finland and Poland and other bordering neighbors of Russia? You could probably make a case for the idea that all the former Soviet Union satellites should be included.
There could be a Chinese bracket. The “winner” would choose the things most likely to happen and when. A high seed might be invading Taiwan. Or flying planes over foreign battleships in the China Sea. Maybe lesser seeds could feature possible virus outbreaks from the Wuhan Lab or open-air markets. Or cornering the computer chip market, guessing how many years Xi Jinping will stay in power, or speculating what year the smog in Beijing will completely obliterate the city.
Hey, once people get hooked on the March Madness tournament and see how much fun it is to guess what will happen when you have absolutely no control over the events and perhaps even lack total understanding of what’s going on, filling out brackets might become the new national pastime. Everybody can play and anybody can win!
©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer
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