Editorial: Don’t ask us about our bracket

By on March 27, 2014

“How’s your bracket?”

It’s a question that serves as a popular conversation starter this time of year, for both sports nuts and the casual observer. And it’s something very few of us want to hear or discuss.

The “bracket” in question refers to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (aka March Madness), cultivating in April’s Final Four weekend. And every spring, our friends, relatives and co-workers put forth countless tournament pools for us to join. It takes no more than 10-15 minutes to complete a standard NCAA tournament bracket, and it takes even less time for it to be demolished by upsets, buzzer beaters, bizarre gaffes and just about anything else that can possibly affect a college basketball game.

And so questions about one’s bracket typically are answered with something along the lines of “don’t ask” or “I hate (insert name of eliminated national powerhouse).” Seriously. You could venture out to a Buffalo Wild Wings or any sports bar right now and actually hear those exact responses. Rarely will you meet someone who can brag about their bracket once the tournament’s opening weekend has concluded. And if you do find that person, give it a week. Chances are they’ll be singing a much sadder tune. Misery indeed loves company.

That’s why billionaire Warren Buffett recently offered a $1 billion reward to the person who could predict every game within the tournament. That’s right—$1 billion dollars to the bracket correctly calling all 63 games. Seems a little lopsided until, of course, you factor in the odds of authoring a perfect bracket: 1:9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s a lot of commas. And now Buffett’s offer seems plenty lopsided, just in the other direction.

Fortunately, it only takes a halfway decent bracket to win a pool. If you can pick a few early upsets and correctly call at least three of the teams that will land in the Final Four come April, you’re in business. And if you can prognosticate just how those final three games turnout, you might be in the driver’s seat, depending on how many people are in said pool—if it’s over 50 people, you’ll need to be much more accurate with your picks; that means you’ll have to embrace both logic and risk while filling out your bracket.

Oddly, the emotion teams exhibit on the court during March Madness (players screaming their heads off after draining a game-winning shot; players crying inconsolably while curled into the fetal position on the hardwood) is often matched by those who’ve placed the fate of their bracket on those teams. It’s kind of sad to watch someone’s bracket go down in flames, but it’s kind of comforting, as well, especially if our bracket has long since bitten the dust. Again, misery loves company.

Here’s a deal: don’t ask us about our bracket and we won’t ask about yours. And when Florida, Michigan State, Arizona and Louisville (the popular Final Four picks this year) eventually lose to schools with vastly inferior rosters, we can share a glance that means only one thing.

“Bracket? What bracket?”