Tuesday, May 22, 2018 Medina 71°


Commentary: NCAA brackets bring more pain than gain


There is undoubtedly somebody out there right now, innocently walking the earth at this very moment, who is potentially going to lose hundreds of dollars because near the end of a game against Northwestern last week, a basketball player from Vanderbilt thought his team was losing when it was actually winning.

Subsequent events, based on that tragically (for Vanderbilt)/gleefully (for Northwestern) flawed assumption, will significantly impact the gross monthly income of at least one member, if not more, of the NCAA Tournament betting brackets bourgeois.

Call it economic death-by-brain-cramp.

It’s the most extreme example yet of why I long ago voluntarily chose to expunge myself from the legion of bracket brainiacs, for whom March is the maddest month of all.

To wit: Of the bajillion game-of-chance devotees who filled out brackets this year, there will be some who will lose a large pile of money by a single incorrect game prediction that would have been correct had, near the end of the game, all of Vanderbilt’s players known they were winning when they were winning.

I, however, will not be one of them, because — in a total 180 from my personal philosophy as a teenager — I have chosen to never again have my personal “wealth” adversely affected by the brain flatulence by anyone other than myself.

Thank you very much.

I don’t do brackets, and I know I’m in the minority. Everybody does brackets in March. It’s what we the people do. Young people, old people, in-the-middle people. Males, females, rich people, poor people, in-the-middle people, famous people, anonymous people … and Pete Rose.

You probably do it. So do most of the people you know. Probably.

I don’t. Here’s why:

In lieu of March Madness I prefer serenity now.

I still watch all the games, or as many as my remote’s batteries, my bladder and my tolerance of it taking 25 minutes to play the last 50 seconds of most tournament games will allow. But I want to watch them on my own terms. I want to watch the games and not care who wins.

Back in the days before I came to my senses, I did play the brackets, and the brackets broke me. Broke me financially — hey, $50 is $50 — and, more importantly, emotionally. It drove me crazy. Every game was like life or death, or at least brackets and death. I could never relax. I always had to maniacally root for one team instead of just rooting for a good game.

It might have helped if I had won some money with my brackets, but I never did. After about a decade of being a pathetic loser, it dawned on me what was happening. Every March I was paying money to make myself miserable.

One of the appeals of gambling, I suppose, is that it makes it more interesting if you have a monetary stake in who wins the game. For me, it was the opposite. I didn’t want to care who won. I wanted to root not for the “right” outcome, but for a dramatic one.

Besides, who do I think I am? When VCU plays St. Mary’s, I have no business picking a winner. I haven’t seen either team play, I know nothing about either team. But if I do a bracket, I am forced to watch as much of the game as I can and root breathlessly for the team I picked to win, even though I don’t know either team’s nickname.

No thanks.

For most, doing the brackets makes watching the games more fun.

For me, doing the brackets made watching the games sheer torture.

Every year the NCAA Tournament is filled with dramatic wins and excruciating losses. If you don’t care who wins, you can enjoy them all. If you do care who wins, Godspeed. There’s a reason why sales of Advil spike every year during the month of March.

Even the lure of possibly winning a lot of money isn’t enough to make me play the brackets. Why? Because I used to play them every year and I never won. Ever. Never came close. I’m a terrible gambler. If I had been around at the time, I probably would have taken Pompeii and given Vesuvius the points.

But that’s just me. Mr. Vegas. (Dewey Oxburger in “Stripes.”)

No thanks. I’ll just sit back and watch and enjoy the remainder of the tournament, brackets free and stress free. Indeed, there are few better feelings, after watching a tournament game being decided by a last-second shot than hollering “What a game!” while others in the room, with brackets torpedoed by the shot shout “%&@##*$%!!!!!”

Several of those shouters surely shouted far worse than that as their Vanderbilt-over-Northwestern brackets were sump-pumped when a Vanderbilt Commodore’s command of basic math failed him with 10 seconds to play.

March Madness for some.

Serenity now for me.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.

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