Let me convey the overall message of what I've learned in the past four days of this year's NCAA Tournament in one word:
The state of being mentally ill, esp. severely.
Extremely foolish behavior.
I kicked off my personal madness-a-thon early Wednesday, filling out the first of many ill-fated brackets. As I feverously scribbled down 'gut feelings' and 'no-brainers' (Fuck you, Missouri) at my kitchen counter, I quickly came to the conclusion that this year's madness would be like none other and that I had a 0% chance of even coming close to winning any pool I entered. Nonetheless, I relayed each and every pick to my mother over the phone (I couldn't bring myself to do it the night before) to enter into another bracket at work, one that she would turn in for me, with complete and total confidence.
That, however, was nothing more than a facade.
As I raddled off who I expected to win in each pairing, I was overcome by my conscience. My voice was humbled into a whimper. My knees quivered under the weight of each choice.
St. Mary's or Purdue? Wichita State or VCU? How the fuck am I supposed to pick the winner of the USF-Temple game if USF hasn't even won their God damned play-in game yet?
Decisions, decisions. Each one so vital. Each one so confusing.
I settled with something I could live with, something much more conservative (1-2-1-1 Final Four) than usual. I mean USF can't possibly beat Temple on only one day of rest, right? There's a reason St. Mary's is a 7 seed, right? There's no way a school that rocks brown jerseys could possibly upset a team like Duke...right?
Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong. Although I started off strong (14-0), it was evident from the second set of Thursday's games that this year's field was wide open. A Kenny George-less UNC-Asheville, for all intensive purposes, defeated the Fab Melo-less Syracuse on the floor. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Matt 'Dead-Eye' Dickey shot like Dick Cheney and the zebras that were calling the game forgot to take their blinders off. If anything, the otherwise uneventful first day of action wound up being a precursor to the absolute insanity of Friday.
I took a hit with the final two games of Thursday, but that was to be expected. Never bet on UNLV if they aren't shaving points for you and never gamble on UCONN if their best players aren't in a contract year.
Either way, 14-2 is not a first round (second round my ass) score to scoff at. In fact, I was fucking elated. For a bracket that was completed in less than 10 minutes, minus the scrutinizing, I was prepared to rub the whole 'not losing a single Sweet 16 team on the first day' thing in the faces of everyone who did. Little did I know, the big dance had just started, and the entire Stomp the Yard cast was coming to serve my pasty ass all the way back to the stone age.
The second day started off fantastic, Creighton came through with a huge W over Alabama after trailing for most of the game and NC State pulled off their pseudo-upset. Then, as the day progressed, I began losing game after game. That trendy Cinderella Ohio with their badass jerseys beat Michigan. I can take it. Then, out of nowhere, Norfolk State continually matches and out-matches Missouri. As the clock winds down, a man is faced with the most troubling of all indecisions when it comes to March Madness: Who should I root for?
As a proud downstate Illinoisan, I absolutely despise Missouri University--what they stand for, what they do, how they always fail to deliver under any circumstance, etc, etc--and the only thing that I despise more than that are the fans in Illinois that root for them. Where's the pride in your home state at? Probably somewhere buried in your self esteem after losing to Norfolk State in the first round.
I'm not even going to get upset over that, actually, so thank you, Missouri.
Over the years, I've found that the question of who to root for often winds up tilted towards the underdog as soon as the clock runs down to about five minutes. Despite losing a Final Four team, I picked up jeers towards Missouri fans that will literally last a lifetime. It was a win-win situation, leaving me with no real qualms.
Then came the late set of Friday games, which, understandably, are very, very hazy. But I do know Lehigh beating Duke made me feel happy inside, as I only had Duke reaching the Sweet 16. But then Xavier beat Notre Dame, and Purdue beat St. Mary's, and USF beat Temple and I said fuck it to my bracket and fuck you to myself for making such conservative, piece of shit predictions.
The next morning I arose and the only thing more gloom and doom than my hangover was my bracket. I crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. I, like millions of others, had a Spring Breakdown. It's anyone's game now, and that's certifiable madness.