Don’t give me a pill or send me to a shrink. It’s just the Madness. I’m fine.
Each year about this time, I nestle into the couch with an over-sized box of Wheat Thins and 923 cans of Diet Coke. I’ve got the TV, laptop and computer all humming as I scour the monitors for the sign of the next greatest game. Eventually, The Missus will come downstairs and say something like, “For God sakes! Open a window and let some of this radiation out of here!The Midget’s pet rabbit is starting to mutate!“
March Madness cuts a wide path through the workforce each year. A lot of “personal days” get used anda ton of “24-hour flu” hits around this time of year. What other event inspiresa full streaming website with every game on it, complete with a “boss button” so you can dodge work without ending up unemployed?
I gave up on filling out brackets long ago. Sure, I’ll pony up for a newsroom league or something, but I usually punch down my picks in about six seconds and move on with life. I learned long ago that there’s more joy in finding a new favorite team every six minutes than there is in hoping North Carolina makes another run to the Final Four. The joy comes from the schools you’ve never heard of putting the fear of God into the blue bloods.
In the here and now, it’s trying to figure out why the Butler mascot looks the pretty much the same asGonzaga’s and yet one is nicknamed “the Bulldogs” while the other is called “the Zags.” It’s pulling for a team from a religious school, even though their belief system irritates you because they’re just so damned gutty. It’s wondering what the hell a “Zip” is andwhy a mid-Ohio team uses a kangaroo as a mascot. Even better, does anyone knowwhat the hell this thing is?
It’s Pete Carrill’sPrinceton Tigers unseating the national champs in 1996, giving the old man a first-ever tournament victory in his last-ever appearance.It’s the Richmond Spiders, the Santa Clara Broncos and the Hampton Pirates who give every 15 seed the glimmer of hope it needs to saddle up against Goliath. It’sWestern Kentucky’s miracle three last year that came off of the worst-designed play ever.
It’s the social changes brought about by teams likeTexas Western. It’s the cultural changes brought about byMagic and Larry. It’s the simple changes we make as we finally get to know the guy in the cubicle next to us by asking, “Did you see what Western Kentucky did to Illinois last night?”
Every year, I watch the first two rounds intently. That’s where the best games are. The 14 seed that refuses to die quietly lives there. The team that never got covered outside of its campus lives there. The guys with three hyphens in their names who tongue-tie Dick Vitale live there. After that, the regular patterns form. The teams that go 10-deep and reside in major conferences squeeze out the American Universities of the world. Still, for that one moment, we hope and pray we’re all one moment away from the next great game.
We can’t help ourselves. It’s the madness