There are two times of year when I am sorta, kinda a sports fan.
One is during the World Series. Sometimes. Depending on who got in.
The other time is during the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament — but only if I’ve filled out a bracket.
If I haven’t made predictions, I’m not interested.
I used to never do this, until back in the late 80s or early 90s, when one of my reporters — I’ll call him “Charlie” — had a pool going, and nagged me to enter it. I told him I didn’t follow college basketball, and didn’t know anything about it. He said to enter anyway. He really, really wanted my dollar.
So, I filled one out. Here was my method — if it was a team that was big back when I was in college (such as UCLA), I chose it to win. If it was a school I had some vague connection to (such as having lived in Kansas briefly), I chose it to win. If it was a Catholic school, such as Georgetown, I chose it to win. When two of those factors came into conflict, I had a decision to make, but I didn’t spend more than a second making it.
And you know those little numbers next to the teams in the brackets, the ones that tell you how the teams are seeded? I didn’t know what those meant, so I ignored them.
I won the pool, in large part because — contrary to the conventional wisdom of the sports fans — I picked Duke to win all the way (in keeping with Rule 1). The sports fans in the pool found this very irritating. Every day during the tourney, I’d come in and ask Charlie how I was doing. “You’re still leading,” he’d growl between clenched teeth.
I won $26.
Since then, I’ve joined pools a number of times, but never done nearly that well again. I have not spent more than $26 total over the years, so by my method of rationalization, it’s not gambling. As long as I stay under that, I’m ahead — I can’t lose.
But today, I realized that the tourney proper starts at noon, and I haven’t filled out a bracket. Worse, I don’t know of a pool anywhere to join.
But I filled one out anyway, and I’m publishing it here, to give myself some kind of stake in the outcomes.
Note that I still sorta, kinda follow my three rules — except now I do pay some attention to the seeds. You’ll see that I have my alma mater, the former Memphis State, going to the Final Four. And since Wichita State was seeded No. 1, and I used to work in Wichita, I had it going to the final. But then I realized that I had broken the fourth rule, the one that doesn’t even need to be stated — Duke always wins. So I had to do some scratching out.
So we’ll see how I do. Please share your predictions as well. If I’d thought of this early enough, I could have set up a sort of non-pool blog pool, so we could compete to see who had the best predictions.
Maybe next year.