It’s that time of year. 32 games in 96 hours. Bets are wagered. Cell phones are turned off. Friendships hinge on the performance of the eighth man on teams like Siena, Texas-Arlington, and Austin Peay. Yup, it’s March Madness. Or, in my case, it’s March Sadness.
Because I am not employed, or associated with folks who participate in meaningful pools, or have “friends” who “care about if I want to get in a bracket for money”, I was reduced to enter a 1 on 1 pool with my roommate with the big payout amounting to dinner up to $40 for the non-loser. As my hopes and dreams began to fade like the blowjob skills of a newly designated “girlfriend” with each Georgetown and Duke loss, I decided to put my thoughts on the first weekend of March Madness 2008 onto digital paper.
What kills me about March Sadness is the ratio of the time I invest during the season in terms of watching weird games like Washington St. (is Derrick Low the best stoner baller this side of Rod Strickland?) vs. Cal in relation to how smart I feel within hours of the first tip. Watching the Big East tourney, who would have ever guessed that ‘Nova plays on at this point while Dajuan Summers and LeVance Fields and Co. watch from their dorm rooms between bong and groupie hits? If I were the same prognosticator in life as I am in early-March, I think it’s safe to say that people would walk in on me masturbating at least twice a month.
The ‘Nova reference raises another important issue that makes Sadness such a bittersweet time of year. When else do you find yourself pulling for Paulus to drain just one more triple while rooting against an early Christmas present to the tune of 37 and 8 in an upset of the Spartans? We are slaves to our brackets. We are slaves to the rankings. We are slaves to our predictions which are inherently steeped more in TV exposure and recognizable coach and player names than educated guesses and well-researched hunches. Who else had teams like USC and Arizona advancing to the Sweet 16? The sex appeal of names like Mayo (well, Mayo, obviously, due to his ever-close relationship to sandwiches, dry-humping a not thin co-ed, and tuna salad), Budinger, and Bayless almost always pre-empt more logical conclusions like “Duke has been overrated all year and this guy Alexander on WVU can really play.” As a result, brackets can quickly turn to kindling. We turn on our home teams who we’ve cheered all faithfully season, root for teams that we have no connection to like Louisville or Norte Dame, and in the end feel and look like the cheerleaders from Cornell. And for what? Mere pride and infallible glory when espn.com presents you with the $10,000 winner’s check. Pssshh.
Don’t let me get ya down. So my bracket is already toast after just the first weekend. That’s ok, it was a great weekend. Exciting games, unpredictable outcomes (understatement), and mad face time for guys like Troy Walters. Pure exhilaration. This brings me to an ever-popular question: perhaps I should quit writing checks with my mouth that my butt can’t cash and actually start writing checks with my mouth that my butt can cash, i.e. I should gamble more! Whenever you put money on something and then either try to accomplish it yourself or watch as others try to accomplish something for you (preferable, for obvious reasons), that activity is always infinitely more intense than when money isn’t part of the equation. Think about it: how often do you find yourself saying, “maybe I shouldn’t drive, the sun is coming up and I can’t feel my drivin’ fingers” or “well I know it tastes like a leaky car battery with that strange metallic aftertaste and all, but all I have are these ultra-protection Lifestyles so I better just dip into the shallow end without my trunks before making up my mind.” Now, if you have a best buddy next to you wagering a cool two bits on the outcome of these potential performances (the second obviously being more common), that always beats just laying it all on the line for nothing with only yourself as the referee. So, before you go to sleep tonight, try this: bet on something for ten bucks. It could be something as exotic as who can find a parking spot first or as mundane as who can do the most jumping jacks after drinking a quart of sour cream. Either way- I guarantee you’ll both be winners. In fact, we’ll all be winners by basking in the periphery of your balls-to-the-wall Rowand-ness.
I’d like to conclude with several words that take on special meaning during Sadness:
Upset- really hits the nail on the head. After Georgetown inexplicably lost their game of horse to Dell Curry’s teenage son, I was visibly and emotionally upset during Easter brunch even though I received not one but two button-down striped short-sleeve shirts which are both just begging to be paired with a checkered tie.
Madness- again, pretty straight forward, with one exception. I usually equate “madness” with what happens when urban youth give officer Harper backtalk after a three-block foot pursuit while during the Tourney it simply articulates the universal state of mind among males 16-49: “everyone wants to know what I think”.
Cinderella- I associate every player on Western Kentucky’s team with riding in carriages, something about pumpkins, wearing dresses, and simply givin’ it up easy.