Mastering the art of Bracketology

This is one of the best times of the year.

March Madness is in full swing, and the sporting world is in the midst of an intriguing tournament up to this point.

All the standard guests have showed up. The powerhouse favorite in Illinois, the old school brawlers in Duke and North Carolina, an old face for a new team with Rick Pitino leading the Louisville Cardinals and everyone’s favorite guess–The Cinderella Team. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has donned the glass slipper this year and has trudged its way to face Illinois in the Sweet Sixteen. All of this is well and good, but that the real fever comes from the fans and their participation in the storied tournament.

The television ratings showed that the NCAA Men’s Tournament has its highest rating in 11 years. My first inclination was that the already popular tournament was gaining even more popularity. Then, upon returning to my second job as a mild-mannered Clark Kent-esque bank teller, I realized something.

Every person I worked with — including the gray-haired former hippie lady — was talking about their bracket being screwed up. It’s the stinking brackets that are causing the ratings; the Madness is not simply for the games any longer.

Before I lose my readership, let’s discuss this phenomenon.

March Madness provides the fan with a unique opportunity to exhibit a false sense of sports prowess — the bracket.

For those unfamiliar with the bracket, you are given a paper that has all 64 teams with their respective opponents. You then pick the winners of each match-up, leading eventually to a national champion. Some bet on these matchups. Personally, I don’t. Nowadays, I can’t even go to the bank water cooler without someone goading me for my picks. I myself have participated in “Bracketology” for as long as I can remember without so much as a pip-squeak from others, so forgive me if I’m a little reserved with my selections (Go U-DUB Huskies).

With the tourney well underway and the remaining Division I basketball programs still competing in the Sweet Sixteen, I find myself scrambling with sweat accumulating on my brow in nervousness. Bracketology gives you a single opportunity to redeem yourself for stupid picks in the past.

For instance, when you pick the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series last year and they barely make .500, bracket redemption is the only thing that can save you.

So this year, it took four brackets to perfect the art. Unfortunately for me, three out of four have struck out. And my hopes rest on a team from Seattle, who probably shouldn’t have deserved a No. 1 seed.

Well, at least I didn’t pick Gonzaga. But then again, that’s what March Madness is all about.