Tuesday Take: Don’t fill out a bracket, learn to love the NCAA Tournament all over again

2018-ncaa-tournament-bracket

It’s OK to not fill out a bracket. No, seriously. You are under no obligation to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket for fun. For office pride. For a chance at some cash reward that you won’t come anywhere close to sniffing about 6 hours into the tournament because your strategy of taking Pennsylvania over Kansas to shock the world didn’t quite pan out.

Put down your pens. Step away from the mouse. Just enjoy the chaos.

In fact, anyone rooting for chaos would do better to just not fill out a bracket and watch it all unfold organically. No worries about how you lost four of your regional finalists by 11:59 p.m. Friday. No lamentations about how your East Region has more red on it than a Coca-Cola bottle.

Not filling out a bracket is a refreshing way to enjoy an event that almost annually peaks in the first weekend before fizzling to a finish in early April. For those fortunate enough to not work those days/nights, stuffing roughly 376 hours of basketball into two days is one of the best things to do during the sports year.

Filling out a bracket can be rewarding, but not filling out a bracket is a gift that keeps giving all through the tournament. No internal data crunching on how a budding Cinderella team totally wrecked your left side of the bracket in the span of 48 hours. You can just enjoy that low- or mid-major’s time in the spotlight …

… Unless your school was one of the victims mowed down along the way. Then your enjoyment levels may plummet. 

But let it be known that for the non-participants there are rules that you have to follow. Because rules are rules.

  • At no point during a tournament can you say “I would have picked that upset.” No, you wouldn’t have. Stop it. Just like few people outside your office pool will care that your Final Four is still intact after the 12:15 game on Thursday wraps up, nobody is going to care that you nailed a 12-over-5 game in your mind. Not even your well-researched arguments that you jacked from Yahoo! will be merited.
  • After establishing that you did not fill out a bracket, you’re probably going to be challenged on your convictions or insulted. Let the heretics have their fun. You made a choice for you, not them. This is not an argument about politics or religion. This is simply a case of people finding different things to do than to spend 15 minutes cramming on a sport that they largely ignored until February. You may be in the right, but it’s not your mission to convert people to your side.
  • Respect the bracket-fillers the same way that you want to be respected for choosing to not fill out a bracket. Human courtesy. Be happy that they’re proud of being in the 37th percentile on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge while also maintaining silent satisfaction in the fact that the non-basketball fan in your office’s/group’s pool; you know, the one who picked games strictly on how cute the mascot is, is walking away with the pot.
  • You made a decision to not fill out a bracket, you did not change the world in any way. In the grand scheme of everything, your decision is barely a blip on your life’s radar, let alone anyone else’s. Walking around with your verbal sandwich board is not going to win you many new friends.

Now if you just want to be a jerk about it, you can always complete a women’s bracket for funsies. If you’re going to troll people for mindlessly or obsessively picking 63 games in the men’s tournament, go for the full trolling and make your picks based on who might make Connecticut sweat before realizing that the Huskies are going to go full 1984-87 Hulk Hogan on the field.

But if you need help in predicting a Final Four, I’ll take the 17 seconds out of my life and offer this group, selected just for you …

• Virginia

• North Carolina

• Villanova

• Michigan State

Take Villanova to win the whole dang thing, just don’t expect me to write it down.

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