One of the benefits of following sports is that when you are correct in your assessment of a circumstance, or when your guess turns out to be right, you can fool others – and sometimes yourself – into thinking you are clever.
No event provokes this syndrome more often or more dramatically than the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Each March, millions of people ritually fill out the brackets of this tournament. People who follow college basketball do it with pencils they have chewed through, or they would do that if they were still using pencils.
But people who don’t follow college basketball at all also fill in the brackets. They are pestered by fellow employees to do this, perhaps so that the pool of imaginary cash that will accrue to the winner will grow. So folks who think “Spiders” is a cool nickname type in Richmond, and somebody with an irrational attachment to universities named after people may have had George Mason meeting St. Peter’s in the semi-finals.
When two basketball teams play each other, one of them will win. This does not mean every game is a fifty-fifty proposition. No number sixteen seed has ever beaten a number one seed in the men’s tournament.
But it does mean that luck plays a big part in bracketology, although nobody whose brackets begin to glow with the promise of imaginary money after the first weekend of the tournament is going to admit that.
It is more likely such a person will say, “Of course I had Morehead State – a number 13 – over Louisville – a number 4. Louisville had peaked, Morehead State was due, and they were motivated by the opportunity to eliminate a more celebrated instate rival.”
I have no such illusions about my own guesses this time around. My own picks were not quite random. I was pretty sure Kansas would knock off Boston University, and North Carolina over Long Island seemed safe. But in match-ups where the outcome seemed less obvious, I did not check the heights of the bench players on each squad or compare the records of the opposing coaches as they have moved from job to job. To job, to job. I guessed.
Of course, if it turns out my brackets prevail, I will retract that admission…for the results will have demonstrated that over all those who labor in this office, I am king.