Tonight kicks off the Sweet 16 in one of the best NCAA Tournaments in recent memory. We’ve had shocking upsets (Dayton, Mercer), stars playing like stars (Napier, Stokes), white guys dancing like black guys, white guys dancing like white guys, white guys on the outskirts of the dance circle because they’re white guys, and one very-possible-that-he’s-actually-insane cowbell musician. Every game seems more exciting than the next and there are a ton of potentially great matchups to look forward to. As an avid basketball fan and a diehard sports fan in general, March Madness has given me very little to complain about thus far.
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, I’m gonna go ahead and spend the next few paragraphs complaining. Because there is a downside to March Madness this year and it’s something that’s seemingly getting worse every year: the “I Had Them In My Bracket!” people.
I’m not going to condemn brackets in general. I like gambling way too much to do that and I’m pretty sure that other than playing Capture the Flag at 5th grade recess or the first time a girl touches your penis, filling out a bracket every March is the most fun thing you can do on Earth. What bothers me is the incessant need for people to throw up their bracket results on social media, talk about their brackets at work, or the worst, pointing out “I had them in my bracket!” in person the second the final score of an upset game scrolls on the screen. Guess what, dude I only socialize with because I work with you and whose texts I never answer on weekends… dooooonn’ttt caaaaarre.
I don’t know if it’s because of the rise of social media, the increase in popularity of March Madness, or if I’ve already become a grumpy old fuck at the age of 26, but I don’t need to hear how your bracket is doing every time a game goes final. You know when I want to hear about how your bracket is doing? When I fucking ask you, “Hey Steve, how’s your bracket doing?” In that case, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell me how you got 14 out of 16 right on Day 1 and how you really meant to pick Mercer but ESPN crashed when you tried to change your pick right before the game started. Or if won your pool and want to celebrate by going out and buying drinks for me and all of our friends. Another case where I’d be delighted to hear how you knew UConn over Villanova was a lock in Round 2. In any other scenario, I really could care less about the progress of the contest in which you’ll ultimately finish in 13th place because that’s where everybody finishes in these things every single year. Nobody actually wins bracket pools, that’s a myth. I’ve been doing them since 1995 and I’ve never seen a real person actually win one.
But there are people worse than the “I had them in my bracket!” folks. The “I had them in ONE of my brackets!” people. These are the people who put six entries into every single pool and try to come up with every realistic Final Four combination possible, and then drive themselves insane because by the Sweet 16 they have no clue who to even root for anymore, and then somehow all six of their brackets still finish in 13th place. Yeah no shit you got that upset right, you ran a fucking Excel formula that laid out all possible outcomes for every single region. If I did 15 entries across 4-5 different pools I’d be “smart” enough to vary my picks too. I totally get that if you watch even a little college basketball throughout the year, having several entries is going to give you an edge over Large Marge in Accounts Payable, but really, how big is that edge? This isn’t fantasy football where playing in multiple leagues can be very profitable if you know what you’re doing. We’re talking March Madness brackets here, the biggest crapshoot this side of Super Bowl Box Pools. And even if that edge exists, is it worth ruining your enjoyment of the games when you have to sit there stone-faced because you picked both teams? Is it worth becoming the most blocked person on your friends’ Facebook and Twitter feeds?
It’s too late to change this year. If you’re one of the “I had them in my bracket!” people, go ahead and keep doing you for the rest of this tournament. If you’re an “I had them in ONE of my brackets!” person, good luck figuring out who to root for when Wisconsin over Florida in the championship gets you 2nd place in your $50 pool but you need Wisconsin to lose in your $75 pool to have a chance at 3rd.
But do me a favor. Going forward, for as long as the NCAA Tournament exists, be a man and fill out ONE bracket and live with your picks. And for Christ sakes, don’t update everyone on how it’s doing unless they explicitly ask you how it’s doing. Because nobody gives a shit.
PS – Anyone really pumped for this next four days of games? I really need Louisville to lose and Michigan State to win because I only picked Louisville to go to the Final Four in one of my brackets but I have Michigan State winning it all in 4 out of 9 brackets.
Jimmy T is a regular columnist for BroBible. He runs the blog Jimmy’s Very Unusual.
[Photo: Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports]