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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

In March the madness returns

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: Opinions

Every year March rolls around and the panic sets in. You see, I was born and raised in North Carolina, a state home to one of the fiercest college rivalries in the country: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill vs. Duke. College basketball has consequently always been important in my family. By the time that the NFL season ends and us Carolinians have gotten over licking our wounds due to the Panther’s latest heartbreaking season, we turn our eyes to basketball. In my family every game means my father comes out of his ManCave (his study) to watch the game on the main TV in the living room and my mother relinquishes the right to have the television turned off during dinner. (There is a compromise: The TV is on mute.) All throughout growing up, I used to watch the Tar Heels dribble down the court in the reflection of the window above my kitchen table as I ate whatever had been made that night. So by the time March rolls around and the NCAA tournament is gearing up, everyone in my family begins to prepare their brackets. My uncle holds a pool every year that is comprised of around 50 people, some whom follow each team’s games throughout the season like a hawk, others who pick based on whatever school sounds the best in their head.

When I was younger my preferred strategy was just to rely on my dad’s opinion, pick random upsets in the first and second rounds, and then choose a first or second seed to take the prize. As I have gotten older and learned what a gift the Internet is, however, I have begun to look up stats, read what the pundits think and are predicting and with some minor guesses pick my bracket. One year I ended up coming in second place, but most years I fall in the middle of the pack. But every year, regardless of where I ultimately end up in the standings, I am confident that my bracket is best. Not known for being quiet or civil, I go around boasting that my picks are correct, everyone who chooses differently is not only mistaken, but should be embarrassed, and that they should all eat dirt when I take the crowning prize.

This year was no different, but my confidence waned pretty quickly as the first round got underway. Not only did I pick incorrectly for every game in the Midwest (except for the Tar Heels), but in every other division I picked mostly wrongly too. I quickly tumbled down from my pedestal and fell straight to last in the standings, where I have remained since day two of the tourney.

My uncle, known for his dry and biting wit, goes by the name “Gridmeister” for the duration of the tourney. Halfway through the tournament he sends out an e-mail to the entire pool ridiculing everyone’s choices (including his own) and lamenting the upsets and the bad calls. His commentary is one of my highlights of the year. I walk away laughing and connected to my family, no matter what geographical location I find myself in that year.

A lot of people here at Brandeis aren’t interested in college basketball and get the normal platitudes when I ask if they are mentally deranged for not caring, “football is more my thing,” “I’m more interested in baseball,” “college sports are boring, I prefer professional leagues.” Not being an athlete I struggle to find people at Brandeis who cared so emphatically about a tradition that has been in my family for as long as I can remember. Only my best friend, a fellow North Carolinian and Brandeis student can commiserate with me as I berate Long Beach State and Southern Florida for their astonishing upsets over higher ranked seeds.

I entered Brandeis as a midyear and attempted to find normality in a brand new situation, pouring over brackets and participating in the tournament was my way to do that. So although I may get a little too riled up—and contemplate wearing a paper bag over my head to the next family gathering to cover my shame—I enjoy every minute of the madness of March.