March I’m Madness

by March 25, 2008

By Vincent Thomas

Brackets? I hate brackets and this putrid month of March. I never feel more idiotic than during this three-week stretch of upsets and Cinderellas, which, by the way, is easily the wackest way to refer to overachieving male athletes. Go ‘head, liken these valiant young men to some broad in a gown and glass stilettos, how appropriate. Excuse the vitriol, but two of my Final Four squads (Pitt and G’Town) are gone thanks to my continued, unreciprocated love and loyalty I show the Big East. So, for the umpteenth time in my life, I’ll brood through the rest of the tournament with the single worse bracket in the country. Allow me to digress but for a moment…

How many brethren out there have spent at least several hours on the SI Vault website? In the spirit of March Madness, I went back and unearthed some of my favorite college basketball articles from my shorty-years, the ones that I’d read over and over and over again, until I could quote them verbatim. The Chris Jackson piece (“Can’t Hold This Tiger”) was always one of my go-to pieces when I had a long date with the porcelain. I hadn’t seen him play before that issue arrived. I spent the next two seasons obsessing over him, the same way I obsessed over Kenny Anderson a year later. “Showdown I” was my joint, for that reason. It was a compare/contrast piece on Anderson and his Duke rival, Bobby Hurley, whom I hated for several reasons. These types of articles were my childhood. But, perhaps my favorite article of that era was “A Rose In Full Bloom”, a piece Curry Kirkpatrick penned after the Wolverines’ Southeast regional win over Jimmy Jackson’s OSU Buckeyes and before they were set to take on Cincinnati.

I’ll always remember that season and that article, because I read it with gloating, know-it-all eyes. I knew those freshmen were gonna march through the tournament, which they continued to do until Duke buzz-sawed them in the second-half of the championship game. That year, 1991, remains the only time that I’ve ever correctly picked the championship game. For me, picking a Duke-Michigan Finals was a no-brainer, though not for any real insightful or prescient reasons. It was simple — Duke was, by far, the best team in college basketball (when not playing the Kentucky Wildcats) and the Fab Five were My Dudes. That was gonna be my Finals pick regardless, even if both teams showed up in the same bracket. Every year before that and since then has been tragic and it doesn’t matter how I go about choosing the squads. I tried for years to use expertise and knowledge, only to feel much more idiotic when a Valparaiso “shocks” Ole Miss or a bunch of mid-major castaways make it to the Final Four (George Mason) or some other team — any team — unexpectedly submarines, while another plays like a pack of Teen Wolves. There was 2002 when I managed to pick Maryland, Kansas, Indiana and Oklahoma to advance to the Final Four, only to fail to pick either of the squads that went on to the Finals. Year after year, more knuckle-headedness.

This year, it’s been more of the same, but maybe a little worse. My bracket is a pathetic farce, made even more sad since my lil brother called me Thursday morning, looking for some “expert advice” and I proudly called out my picks, even gave him a few alternate picks, only to lead him down the same, sad, schmuck-steered path I travel every March.

The unpredictability of the tourney just isn’t my bag. I like plot twists in my films. But I like blindside attacks in my sports about as much as like them in my automobile. And it irks me that the same caprice that helps Terri win her office pool, because Davidson’s jerseys are the same color as the marinara stain on her blouse, never works in my favor. I picked USC and Baylor to advance because I wanted them to — it was that simple. I wanted to see O.J. Mayo put together a transcendent tourney-run into the Sweet 16. No dice. I wanted Baylor to get some feel-good to counter the school’s recent tragedy, but, Purdue played like some heartless, cold-blooded blowhards. I picked ‘Zona because I thought that my favorite college point (Bayless) and a crop of blue-chips playing for a storied program would snag a vic over a school located in a state of, primarily, inbred hillbillies. Little did I know that most of West Virginia’s roster came from other states, which killed my inbred hillbilly logic. I can’t tell you why UCLA escaped a fate similar to G’Town’s. These things upset me. I don’t find it entertaining at all.

1991. That was my year. 2008 is more of the same and it annoys me. Ultimately though, I’m a college basketball fan, so I’m gonna watch the bulk of the 15 remaining games…but I’m not gonna like it.