Sports Day-ly: Maddening March

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By Denton Day

One of my favorite things about arcades is the cool money machines that they have. The ones where you step in, the door closes, and you have 30 seconds to grab as much money as you can while a fan whips the dollar bills everywhere.

When you walk in you are focused and prepared to get as many flying pieces of paper as possible. The goal is usually pretty high too. Sometimes people aim for $20, $50 or if confidence is sky high they’ll aim for $100.

But once the machine starts it hits you like a whirlwind and you walk out with $6, three pieces of Monopoly money and a candy wrapper for a piece of candy you didn’t even eat.

A bracket is the exact same thing. A person can spend hours upon hours–and people do–researching everything and anything about every team in the tournament before making selections. Three days into the tournament that person has lost three of their Final Four teams.

The NCAA tournament is a complete whirlwind filled with excitement, pandemonium and–yes–madness. If you take all of that and roll it into one it can hit you like a truck.

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spent the last few days filling out your March Madness brackets, desperately in search of the perfect picks.

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but your bracket will not be perfect. It might be good and you might win some, but it will not be perfect.

Despite the fact that I know I will not have a perfect bracket I still actively pursue perfection. One year in either middle or high school I was perfect for the first three or four days. Which I think is pretty solid.

With that being said I’m about 90 percent positive that the game that broke my perfection was the fall of a Final Four team. So I won no money that year.

I routinely lose to people who pick games based on mascots or the colors of the school. It’s incredibly frustrating because sports is basically my entire life and in my mind it makes sense for me to win every year.

But instead I’ve never won anything more than $3 based on my brackets–life is hard.

Getting your bracket busted early undoubtedly sucks but it also gives you a chance to just sit back and enjoy the madness. When you look at it that way it slightly lessens the pain.

I’ve spent many years bonding with friends and family members over the failures of our brackets. Strangely, we never really bond over the successes–that might be something I need to look into.

I started to learn this around my junior year of high school. My friend Brendan and I devoted our study hall time to researching and crafting our own brackets.

We worked hard and probably went through about three or four brackets each before we each settled on our final, “winning” brackets.

Brendan’s bracket turned out pretty solid. I lost two Final Four teams–Duke and Missouri–by the end of the second day.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a “THIS IS THE YEAR,” text from him.

Brendan and I haven’t seen each other in nearly three years but when March comes around we always engage in deep conversations about our bracket. It’s how we bond.

The amount of brackets a person fills out says a lot about their character. The perfect number is one, but the acceptable number is about three. A realistic one, one that features your alma mater winning and–in the chance that your alma mater wasn’t your favorite team growing up–one with your favorite team. Also if you fill one out solely of upsets we can deem that acceptable as well.

Allow me to use myself as an example. If this year played out the way it should have I would have a realistic bracket with my real winner, a bracket with Liberty winning and a bracket with Maryland winning.

Thanks to Radford and the combination of injuries and the grind of Big Ten basketball I only get one this year. That one will be entered in as many contests as possible so I can possibly win prizes.

Few things are worse than hearing a person brag about their March Madness successes when they filled out anymore than three brackets. Having a separate bracket for every top seed to win the tournament is not cool, its incredibly lame.

This year I have a good amount of upsets going down early. I have the first No. 1 seed falling in the round of 32 with Missouri upsetting Xavier. The last time I picked Missouri to accomplish anything of note in the tournament they got knocked off by Norfolk State in the first game–this year I’m either a genius or have failed to learn from past mistakes.

My Final Four features UVA, UNC, Purdue and Michigan State. I didn’t intend to feature only two conferences in the Final Four but I went with my gut.

UVA is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Usually I do my best to avoid picking the top seed to even make the Final Four, yet alone win the thing. This year just feels different.

For the first time–maybe ever–UVA has some sort of offense to go along with it’s stifling defense. I’m a firm believer in defense winning championships so I had to go with UVA. Plus Tony Bennett is due for a championship sooner or later.