Tuesday, March 31

I don't care about your bracket

With Pittsburgh's heartbreaking defeat in their Elite Eight game against Villanova, I no longer have any rooting interest in the NCAA Tournament. The five Ohio entrants and Pitt are out, and The Final Four is set with Michigan State, UConn, UNC, and fucking Villanova, none of whom I care about. I'll passively pull for the Spartans out of Big Ten solidarity, but in general: eh.

Pitt's exit on Saturday night reminded me of both the major strength and major weakness of the NCAA Tournament: the fact that everyone is involved with it. Let me explain.

Obviously, the 65-team contest is wildly popular. I guarantee that, if you are reading this blog, you filled out at least one bracket. Everyone did. This is good, because it builds interest and you can discuss the results with just about anyone. Unfortunately, this results in a situation where people root for their brackets far more than for an actual team, and that's annoying. Like Pitt losing - I know a lot of people were pulling for them because of a prediction they had made, but I actually follow the team and was rooting for them out of legitimate sporting interest. Frankly, it annoys me that people with absolutely no interest in Villanova, who don't even know where Villanova is (near Philly), are excited over their win and I have to settle for yet another defeat. Trust me, Villanova-pickers: you having selected Villanova in your bracket really, really doesn't make the Panthers' exit any easier.

Admittedly, this feeling might be amplified somewhat by the fact that I submitted an almost historically bad bracket (I currently rank 70th in a 74-person pool), but I think it's legitimate regret over how actual fandom is subsumed by bracketmania during the tournament every year. This is not unlike the reason why I choose not to play fantasy football. Part of why my 2009 bracket is so lousy is that I hedged my Cleveland State support by picking Wake Forest to go far. I was more than happy to see that region go up in flames when the Vikings pulled off the upset - I wonder how many NCAA prognosticators could say the same.

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