It's Waxing Off, the feature that guarantees delivery in less than 30 minutes, or it's free. Today's topic: The NCAA Basketball Pool and the Brackets of Doom.
Don't talk to me about brackets. I'm not ready yet. I'm still clinging to the last vestiges of hope. The ACC tournament offers up that hope to me. Maryland has been toying with my emotions all season. I have been sucked into a cycle of trying to walk away and give up on them to coming back to dreaming about the big dance. The Terps are like most of my ex boyfriends, just when I'm ready to leave them for being inconsiderate losers they surprise me with a big heartfelt gesture and I forgive them their faults and believe they won't do it again.
Consequently, I don't want to think about filling out another bracket without my beloved Terps. They won last night in the first round of the ACC tournament and that was enough to breathe new life into my hopes and dreams. It's true I'll probably be crushed later today, trying to think of ridiculously complicated arguments as to why they really deserve a spot. But don't do that to me yet, let me enjoy my last few hours of blind hope. This team reminds me too much of the 2004 team that was solidly on the bubble and went on a tear to win the tournament and secure a spot. I'm not ready to face reality yet.
And even if Maryland had lost last night, I'd want some time to mourn my team. They were a tourney staple for so long. It breaks my heart to look at a fresh bracket without them. Maybe this is what has spurred my bracket mania. I fill out women's brackets, lacrosse brackets, hell, if there was a bracket I could fill out on a random public ESPN group for men's badminton, I'd probably do that too. Ok, well, maybe I'd stick to sports I have some tiny bit of knowledge about. But still, if the bracket includes Maryland, I'm all about it.
Basically Rick, this was a mean topic. With so many teams on the bubble, I can't even look a few days ahead to selection Sunday, let alone to sitting down and predicting the wrong first round upsets.
— Meghan's hoping to be smiling on Sunday. When lamenting the Terps' latest letdown, she blogs at Girls Don't Know Sports.
Every year during March Madness, my friends and I make a trek to Las Vegas for Sweet Sixteen weekend. I don't really gamble and I don't care about basketball. So why am I there? Why not? When it's 10 degrees in Chicago and 80 degrees in Vegas, it's really a no-brainer.
March 2006. Sunday morning, my friend and I were nursing hangovers and trying to remember what the hell happened the night before. In fact, now that I'm trying to remember the details, I can't… Anyway, at some point that morning, we heard that George Mason was playing UConn and thought "George Mason?!" In our still-drunken minds, we thought "We should cheer for George Mason just so we can yell ‘Tournament of George!' in the sports books." We even thought about putting some money on George Mason, just to make our obnoxiousness a little more legitimate. Trust me, it made perfect sense at the time and we thought we were quite clever for coming up with this. Ultimately, we decided against it. I don't remember what the odds were. And I don't remember how much we were going to bet. But I do remember this: The two of us would've walked out with A LOT of money if we bet on George that day.
Moral of the story: Sometimes, drunken ideas in Vegas are a GOOD thing.
— Ellie apologizes to her UConn friend for bringing up a bad memory, but also hopes to have another drunken brilliant idea in Vegas this year.
It all started earlier in 2002, when I was bartending at a popular sports bar and winning bets left and right on my beloved, unpredictable Philadelphia Eagles. During the NFC Championship game I watched in misery as the Iggles choked and as some birthday boy's dad paid off the bar owner to "award" his disinterested son the McNabb jersey they were supposedly randomly giving away. Once the game was a goner the drunks started in with the McNabb bashing and the birthday boy asked to trade in his jersey for a Tampa Bay one. My good friend and fellow bar monkey, Art, kept me from physically harming any people and kindly paid our tab. Only lost a bill on that game but the hurt lingers.
Art felt bad for me, he said. You have to focus your bets on games in which you have no emotional stake, he said. How about college ball? He had a point: I watched NCAA basketball and certainly heard my fill of predictions and complaints from the other side of the bar, but round ball just doesn't thrill me like football and I wouldn't care one way or the other who won.
"It's the Hoosier's year," said Indiana native Art, while carrying a fresh bucket of ice to my bar. "Bet on it." Maybe, I thought, although UConn was looking good and Oklahoma was not to be counted out. I consulted with the microbrew-swilling ballcaps around the bar and ignored my husband, who bleeds orange and cannot fathom that Syracuse hopelessly sucks. I carefully mapped out my brackets. "Hoo-siers! Hoo-siers!" bellowed Art.
March Madness 2002 sped by, trashing brackets and ruining lives without pity or mercy. I was doing fine, just fine. I trash-talked, I gloated, I fantasized about what I'd do with my big winnings and I marveled at the Hoosier's wild ride. I promised Art a steak dinner as reward for his good advice after we watched "Hoosiers" for the billionth time. "What about Maryland?" yawned Art's girlfriend, Denise. "The Terps would love to think they had a chance," answered Art, sullenly.
Final Four was agony, but nothing compared to the slack-jawed disbelief of the Championship Game. Were the Hoosiers thinking of joining this game in Atlanta, maybe? Did someone slip roofies in the Gatorade? How to explain the listless, lifeless playing of the Indiana Hoosiers? Worse, I saw my money being eaten, bill-by-bill, by a grinning, phenomenally talented Juan Dixon. Woe is me, goddamn awesome turtles.
— Trouble no longer bets money on sports, obviously, and never did take the big loss out on Art's sorry hide.
Every year my father joins one of many NCAA pools with his lifelong friends. Most of the men in the pool, for whatever reason, cough up an extra $40 to enter a bracket for their wives. Not my father. Oh sure, my mom can add her bracket to the mix, but he wasn't about to just throw away 40 of his hard-earned dollars. Frugality was key with my father, and my mother had no chance of winning. I'll attest, she does know next to nothing about college basketball — or, you know, sports — but this was 1999, and she did know one thing: Kevin Freeman. At the time a junior forward for UConn, Freeman was a high school basketball teammate of my older brother. He'd been to the house, I was friends with his younger brother, and because he was such a nice boy, UConn was going to take the title.
I remember that tournament well, particularly being home for spring break in time for a Madness party my parents were throwing. It was the weekend of the Elite 8 and I watched in horror as my father swallowed his tongue while his brackets exploded. When the night was all said and done, family friend John, the holder of all things tournament, filtered through the papers to calculate who was in the lead. You can imagine where this is leading...
My mother, knowing nothing but Freeman's finesse with parents, was the only person with her Final Four still intact. She was also the sole person with UConn beating Duke for the title. Laugh as everyone did at the time, my mother won that pool. And my father has entered money for her ever since.
— Kristine Blinn is fond of saying "No man may have me, unless he's beaten me in a fair fight."