Sixty-four teams go in, only one comes out, it's the finest spectacle in all of organized sports. Sure, there are probably those that would like to debate me on that proclamation, and to those poor misguided souls I say, throw $20 into an office pool, fill out those brackets and then strap yourself into the three-week roller coaster that is March Madness.
I'm not a particularly emotional man. I can watch Old Yeller die a thousand times and never feel anything. I can walk through a funeral with the disconnected professionalism of an anthropologist studying a dying culture. But give me a 12th seed upsetting a 5th seed in the first round of the tournament, and you might just see me get a little misty. Watching that same team lose in the final four, because heart can only take you so far could actually catapult me into semi-controlled lip trembling. And don't even get me started on the profiles of players who've overcome some terrible adversity to get to where they are today. Depending on the level of adversity, I may actually choke out, "That's beautiful, man!" and then openly sob. And I'm not the only one crying, when a team loses, they usually shed a few tears right there on the bench. It makes me appreciate how far the team has come and how difficult it must be to have to go home. Unless of course that team is Notre Dame, in that case I simply scream, "That's right cry, cry me a river and hit the bricks, ya lousy golden domers!" I have some unresolved issues with Notre Dame; it's an Indiana thing.
I'm particularly excited about this year's tournament, because my alma mater Purdue made the cut of 64. With few returning players, we weren't expected to do much this year, but the basketball gods took pity on our faltering program and left four talented freshmen on our doorstep. And yes, I used the words "we" and "us", because we are in this together. They practice constantly and run laps in an empty gym until midnight. I wear clothing with a "P" on it and refuse to shave during winning streaks; we all have a role to play. I will also scream profanities at the radio and/or TV during games; babies cry, dogs cower, wives frown, it's all part of the process. What I'm struggling with lately is how I became this obsessed with Purdue sports. Does a few years of scant studying in a campus's libraries and massive drinking in its bars justify this level of commitment? I wasn't this interested in these sports programs when I actually lived at the university. It must have something to do with lost youth, a lacking of daily conflict or some other such psychological nonsense. Perhaps I could visit the Purdue Psychology Department the next time I'm in town for a game.
One of my favorite things about the NCAA tournament doesn't even take place on the court. Every year right before the tournament steps off, some idiot at Forbes or Money magazine will write a piece predicting billions of dollars in lost productivity as office workers around the country abandon their daily tasks to watch, talk about and bet on March Madness. Is this really happening out there? Wouldn't you assume that someone who would ditch responsibility to watch basketball in March would just move onto some other distraction in April? I can honestly say that I've never seen any co-worker's work level decline in the month of March. That's not to say that they don't suck at their jobs in March, but in most cases these are the same people who sucked at their jobs during the other 11 months of the year, too. People goof off at work, don't blame it on something as beautiful and glorious as the NCAA tournament.
By the time you read this article the 64 teams will have dwindled to 16. There will have been upsets and dramatic come from behind victories. I will have consumed approximately 12 lbs. of various meat and cheese products, and lost about 12 hours sleep. And the tourney will still have 15 games left to be played, so get yourself in a Sweet 16 pool and ride the light, just don't pick Notre Dame, they're going down like a your grandma on bingo night.