posted by Joe Anaya on March 31st, 2014

I love March. There are lots of reasons: the return of warm spring weather, St. Patrick’s Day (I’m Irish by marriage), my birthday (Pisces), but mostly, the NCAA college tournament March Madness. If you like college basketball, or underdogs, or Cinderella stories you have to love the tournament. For years, even if I wasn’t in a betting pool, I’d keep a bracket taped to the wall and update it every day after work.

New words and phrases appeared in the English lexicon like “bracketology,” the pseudo-science of handi-capping who wins and advances, and “bracket buster,” an underdog who keeps winning by knocking out most peoples predicted winners, “Cinderella team” a lowly rated team who rises up and wins unexpectedly, and of course, it’s “midnight” when the Cinderella team finally looses to a superior team. Even President Obama takes time to announce his bracket picks.

Most of you have probably been hit up to join a pool at work. Somebody wanders through the office and hands out Xeroxed copies of the brackets and comes by later to collect your bracket and five bucks.

This year, I had to explain the way a bracket works to a couple of women who didn’t follow sports. Okay, I’ll give them credit for participating despite their lack of knowledge, but how do they not know how a bracket playoff works? I guess it’s too many reality TV shows, eliminating contestants based on random luck, or popularity rather than direct head to head competition. “Two teams play, one loses and is out, the other wins and advances one more branch on the bracket to face the winner of the other bracket. And so on, and so on.”

One of my favorite parts of the tournament is the character of young men on display. You see a star player single-handedly carry their team deep into the tournament. Occasionally, you see a star player succumb to the pressure of a national audience and disappoint. But the best is when you watch a heretofore average player, usually some kid coming of the bench,  rise to the occasion and shine like a diamond under the mounting pressure.

Oh there’s so much to love; when a group of average players beats a team of athletes through superior teamwork, not to mention the last second buzzer beaters. It’s all so fun, it’s almost as good as a birthday cake, just for you.

Reposted from 3/19/12

File Under Weekend Warrior