I am a basketball PROGNOSTICATOR! Sort of…


I just looked at my NCAA bracket for the first time since I filled it out, to see how I was doing.

It had been an afterthought, and I had no money riding on it, so who cared, right? I did it too late to get into any pool. The first games were underway (although I had no idea what the scores were yet), so I just sort of did it for my own minor entertainment. My daughter had done one and urged me to, so I thought, Why not?

Then I forgot where I had put it. It took a few minutes to find it just now. And I saw that WOW, I was doing pretty great! I had Gonzaga and Baylor in the final — which seems a pretty likely event at this point — and Gonzaga winning. Which also seems, right now, to be the likeliest outcome, although anything can happen.

I felt smart, in a “proper man,” sort of way, as Roy and Moss were trying to feel when they went about saying, “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?

Almost as smart as that time back in the 80s — no, wait; it must have been ’91 — when Charlie Pope persuaded me to fill out a bracket, because he wanted my dollar. I’m not saying Charlie was in charge of this unsavory gambling enterprise; I forget which of the Five Families was running it. But he was the guy bugging me. I kept refusing, saying (truthfully) that I knew zip about college basketball. I had sort of followed it back in college (when my alma mater came in second in the NCAA, behind UCLA), but not since.

But finally, to make him stop bothering me, I filled out a bracket and kicked in a buck. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know those little numbers next to the teams were telling me where they were seeded. But I had to have some kind of basis for a decision, so, in the minute or so I took to fill it out, I gave the advantage to whichever team possessed one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The school had been a big deal in basketball 20 years earlier, when I had sort of followed it.
  • It was a Catholic school. Like Georgetown, for instance. Or Gonzaga.
  • The school was in some way connected to me during my life experiences. Like my alma mater, Memphis State (or whatever they were calling it these days). Or the two big teams in Kansas, about which my colleagues were always raving when I worked in Wichita.

That was my system. I picked Duke to win. Some sports fans smiled indulgently at me for that.

And I won. This was a very frustrating outcome for poor Charlie. I knew he reviewed the brackets every day to see how each person was doing, and I made a point of asking him how I was doing every day, and enjoyed his grouchy “You’re still in the lead.” This was a completely unjust outcome in his book, since he knew that I was an idiot in these matters.

I guess I won between 20 and 30 bucks. But that wasn’t the point — I was just so glad to be right. My system had worked!

And now I’ve got a good chance of being sort of right again.

Just don’t, you know, ask me who else I had in the Final Four. I think one of them was knocked out in the first round, which is one reason I hadn’t looked back at the bracket since then…

Pay no attention to my FULL bracket, or to the man behind the curtain!

Pay no attention to my FULL bracket, or to the man behind the curtain!

4 thoughts on “I am a basketball PROGNOSTICATOR! Sort of…

  1. Bryan Caskey

    I watched the Gamecock Women’s basketball team last night in their Final Four game. It was a heavyweight fight that went down to the wire. One little tip-in that didn’t fall at the last second was the difference in the game, and Stanford advanced.

    Was proud of the team for fighting hard and showing grit. They’ll be back next year just as good, if not better.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m sure they’ll do well, and I wish them the best.

      This is where the difference between me and an actual FAN becomes starkly apparent, though.

      I embarrassed myself during the weekly ADCO Facetime meeting on Tuesday. Since my colleagues are all normal people, unlike myself, these meetings generally start with social interchanges — catching up with each other, showing healthy human interest in each other before getting down to business. This often includes a review of what’s happening in Gamecock world. My colleagues are all USC alumni, and possess varying degrees of devotion to the sports teams.

      Anyway, someone brought up the NCAA tournament, and I thought for a moment I’d be on solid ground here for once. I had in fact watched the latter part of Baylor’s victory over Arkansas — maybe the last 10 minutes or so, the most I’ve seen of any of these games (oh, I’ll try to watch, but I get so tired of the commercials, and the extended conversation among a bunch of guys sitting around in a study talking about the games, that I give up). Anyway, as I will do, I decided which team I would prefer to see win. This is not what you’d call a lifetime commitment; just an exercise for increasing my own interest in what I’m watching. Possibly vaguely remembering my bracket, I chose Baylor. Since they had a comfortable — but not insurmountable, in the time left — lead, the game promised to have a pleasant outcome. I did get mildly nervous, though, each time Arkansas scored, eating slightly into that lead, prompting such irrational thoughts as Is this the start of a dramatic rally, and am I a Jonah — will my choice of Baylor doom it?

      So I said something in the meeting about having seen “last night’s game” — having, in fact, stayed up past midnight for the end. My colleagues sort of ignored that, and talked about the big game coming up that night, which would help determine something having to do with the Final Four. I became confused. What game Tuesday night… hadn’t Baylor already secured a place in the Final Four?

      Finally, they realized what planet I was on, and explained that whatever I was talking about, THEY were talking about the women’s tournament, and the Lady Gamecocks.


      I lamely confessed that I hadn’t been aware of that, and in a pathetic effort to redeem myself, mentioned that I had heard my parents — who are normal, sports-loving humans, making one wonder whether the Ancestry DNA test showing I was related to them was accurate — mention that tournament, and the local team, a number of times.

      I could have gone on to explain that I thought I had also seen references to it on social media, and had seen some coverage about some things Dawn Staley had said recently, and if someone had asked asked me whether they were in the tournament or not, I’d have said with some confidence that they were. But none of this would have helped. I was in deep enough, so I just let it go.

      It’s not that I don’t care about the Lady Gamecocks. I was actually pretty interested in them when my friend Roscoe Wilson’s daughter was their star. Given a choice between a universe in which they won their game last night and this one in which they lost, I would prefer the former.

      But my daughter had reminded me to fill out a men’s bracket, and not a women’s, so I was slightly more engaged with Gonzaga, and…

      Oh, never mind…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Changing the subject slightly….

        Those meetings are sort of like the daily editors’ meetings at The State when I first joined the paper in 1987 — although I see the ADCO interest in the Gamecocks as pretty normal, and the uniform identification among the editors as pretty weird.

        At my former paper, in Wichita, there were plenty of conversations about KU and K-state, which I generally ignored. The folks mentioning these school cared passionately about the difference, but I had trouble remembering which one was in Manhattan and which in Lawrence — or for that matter how to get to either of those towns. (Gimme a break; I was there in the Western wilderness less than two years.)

        But I wasn’t weird there. It was like most newsrooms — about half Kansans, and the rest of us vagabonds from elsewhere. And in the editors’ meetings, you generally had more outsiders than locals. This is because in the newspaper industry of the 20th century, people who were willing to move were more likely to be promoted to senior positions. Which I always saw as a pretty healthy thing — it made us more likely to hold our community at a certain distance, from which to regard it more dispassionately. And we had the locals to keep us grounded in the place. A good mix.

        But The State in early 1987, shortly after the purchase by Knight Ridder, was very different. I was definitely a weirdo in that context. I was the first journalist, much less the first in a management position, to have come in from a KR paper — or indeed, from anywhere out of state. So even though I was a South Carolina native, I was a stranger in a strange land. (Hit it, Leon…)

        Not only that, but the room was full of USC graduates — with one exception. Poor Tom Priddy, the editor over the photo and graphic arts department, had gone to Clemson. So a standard subject of conversation in the room would be about that outlander Priddy, who would try to hold his own as well as he could. He did all right; he’s a pretty unflappable guy.

        It was a pretty parochial environment, and one I had never expected to experience in my profession, although it was also nice to be in a newsroom with such a strong sense of place….

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