An Ode to the Frustrating Beauty of March Madness Basketball
Like every year prior, 2016’s rendition of March Madness basketball has been as unpredictable as it ever has been. I am writing this on the morning before the start of the second round and I have been desperately trying to make sense of what has happened over the past two days. My bracket has already met my shredder at this point and now I find myself in a familiar place; watching the games purely to enjoy the spectacle as opposed to holding on to the hope of keeping my bracket intact.
You can take a listen to the My Fantasy Podcast, available for download on iTunes and Soundcloud (shameless plug), to hear just how dreadful my first round picks were, but let me walk you through the roller-coaster of emotions I have been on. My Thursday started off as well as it could have, going 3-for-3 with my first picks (Butler over Tech and UConn over Colorado, sorry Dan, as the highlights). Feeling good about myself, I couldn’t have been less prepared for what was about to happen. Two of my Elite 8 picks, Baylor and Purdue, and Iona, my biggest upset pick, decided to burst my bubble with first round losses. Angry with the basketball gods, I went to sleep feeling like my bracket was already done. When I woke up the next morning, however, I found that Wichita State and Gonzaga had won.
I was back in it! My hopes for a profitable bracket were reignited in an instant, and I was ready to see my picks come through on Friday. And then, Michigan State happened. Michigan State, the team everyone hailed as the jilted should-be-one-seed and my pick to win it all, fell to a team whose mascot is a “Blue Raider.” What in God’s name is a Blue Raider? Better yet, what is a Rainbow Warrior? On the podcast, Dan Schalk pointed out that Hawaii could have upended Cal in a potential upset, but anyone telling you that they expected it is reaching.
At this point, my bracket has no chance to succeed, with three of my Elite 8 teams eliminated and my National Champion pick watching from home. However, as I said previously, I now find myself in a place that I find infinitely more enjoyable. Now, I get to watch the games with nothing to root for other than the potential upsets and Cinderella dream stories. I have no dog left in this fight and, to be honest, it feels liberating.
March Madness basketball has always been a volatile cocktail of equal parts fascination and frustration, but this is what makes it so incredible. Unless you are extremely lucky (let’s be honest, no one knows what is going to happen in March, not even the smartest expert), there will come a point when you realize that your bracket is finished. For me, this has happened after the first round; for others, this may not happen until the Sweet Sixteen. However, it almost always happens to all of us. Filling out your bracket and watching your upset picks hit is one of the best aspects of March Madness Basketball. But, you want to know what is just as much fun? Just watching the spectacle of it all, and waiting to see what amazing moments will happen next.