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College Basketball

This March Madness, Consider Suffering In Silence For Once

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 8: (L-R) Tom Holmoe, director of athletics at Brigham Young University, works as the NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection Committee meets on Wednesday afternoon, March 8, 2017 in New York City. The committee is gathered in New York to begin the five-day process of selecting and seeding the field of 68 teams for the NCAA MenÕs Basketball Tournament. The final bracket will be released on Sunday evening following the completion of conference tournaments. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

If you said it once, you said it thrice yesterday, and you know you did. "My bracket is destroyed." Or, if you work here with my contemptible comrades, your "brackie."

You probably said it when UConn lost to New Mexico State. You definitely said it when Iowa went down to Richmond in the Defector 6,000-Star With Sun Rays Emanating From The Ball Lock Of The Tournament Game, and thanks again, Ken. You were great. And you for sure said it when Kentucky power-booted to Saint Peter's because you didn't have Saint Peter's because you never heard of Saint Peter’s and if you say you had Saint Peter's you're a 6,000-Star With Sun Rays Emanating From The Ball Liar.

Anyway, you said it, and the responses you got ran the gamut from "Oh," to "Yeah, me too," to "Should I call HR?" In the first and third cases you failed the Fantasy Football Interaction Test, and in the second you were just trolling for sympathy from a fellow bracketeer. The second is acceptable, if a bit whiny. The other two plainly are not because, as in the case of fantasy sports, nobody should ever be asked to care about your team unless said human is in the same pool you are and has expressed interest in your brackie. In an indecent world, it is among the last acts of decency remaining.

And let's not have that "It's a way to bring people together in a MAYBE post-COVID world" tautology, because you were doing this "let me tell you about me" rhetorical violence before COVID. In fact, you doing it year after year to unsuspecting non-combatants probably helped create the conditions in which COVID mutated and learned to thrive. 

But it's true: Telling us about your bracket is a violent intrusion upon our right not to care about what you're doing, why you're doing it, or frankly, you period. What you're telling us is at best the most infinitesimal of curiosities—you didn't know anything about New Mexico State, nor even half the schools Teddy Allen attended before Las Cruces—and at worst something everyone else knew at the same moment you did—that the Peacocks cheated the most deserving of reapers. But you did it in a context of "How does this affect me?" because if you were talking to a fellow brackieologist the proper form is, "Well, that doesn't hurt anyone because nobody had Saint Peter's." Or if a non-combatant came up to you and said, "Well, that rogers your bracket," your response should be, "OK, you screwed up and showed interest. The rest of this horrifying interaction is on your head."

In other words, the rules of engagement can't be clearer, and today is another day—the second-best day of the men’s tournament, after the first day. If for some reason Delaware beats Villanova, or UAB beats Houston (even though all the allowable 12-5 upsets have already been used) or today's 57,366-Star Mortal Lock Of The Solar System And All The Nine Vectors Of Universe, Yale over Purdue, you say nothing unless the person to whom you are speaking has been properly vetted as an acceptable victim of intrusion. Oh, you may blurt out a brief and pungent swear if your team loses, but not as an incitement to further conversation. You're a decent, caring adult, so act like it. OK, you're probably not, but shut up anyway.

And if you are part of the Army Of Drunken Disease-Seekers In Vegas or Atlantic City watching all 14 hours of basketball in a sportsbook while half-blind on varnish shooters with umbrellas in pineapple hanging outside the thermos from which you are drinking them, these rules do not apply. You put yourself in harm's way, and you get exactly what you deserve, including the weird kidney infection you thought was just a mild case of gastroenteritis.

Two other warnings, though. If Loyola beats Ohio State, you cannot say, "I had that one" because everybody had that one. Also, no matter where you are, even if you are in one of the aforementioned legal-betting warzones, if you refer to Saint Peter's as "The 'Cocks" or make a similarly penile jape based on the name "Peter," you are unfit for human contact even though that bar is considerably lower than it used to be.

Oh, and in the immortal words of my daughter, who asked for help with her brackie (and yes, I proudly gave both her and her brother Xerxes my Iowa lock as a hat tip to KenPom), go Juh-ville State over Auburn. Not because rooting against Auburn is objectively good or bad because that's between you and your celestial pixies, but because I know people who went to Juh-ville State and they all turned out exactly as you'd expect.

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