On the eve of the 2009 NCAA College Basketball tourney, many of you are undoubtedly finishing up your brackets for a "March Madness" pool you may have entered at the office, with a bunch of buddies, or even with your family.
This year, like past years, you've watched hours upon hours of college basketball, poured over statistics, records, and the storied history of each and every college program until your eyes dried up and you passed out from sheer exhaustion—only to wake up April 7th to find out that yet again, you didn't even come close to winning the pool.
The worst part is, despite all your preparation, you still lost to one of these people:
1. The "I'm Only Filling This Out for Fun" Guy
Everyone knows this guy—big smile, friendly "pat-on-the-back" type, and clueless about college basketball. You ask him to be in your pool out of pity, knowing fully well that he has no chance of winning. Nevertheless, you're more than happy to take his money.
That is, until his random picks get three out of the final four right, before he takes it all by correctly predicting the winner. And runner-up. And the final score within 3 points.
2. The Wife/Girlfriend/Female Co-worker
First off, this is not a knock on women at all. I know from experience that there are lot of women out there who watch sports, have extensive knowledge of college basketball, and can lay a serious hurt on me.
No, this is about women who are clueless about sports (by choice or upbringing), yet fill out a bracket just to see how they'd fare against the men. You know them by their stereotypical way of choosing teams.
Examples include color ("Ohhh, I just love teal"), animals ("A tiger could totally beat up a terapin, whatever that is"), cute players ("Isn't Tyler Hansbrough hot?"), etc.
It's almost funny to watch them use this methodology to pick their teams—right up until they whoop your ass in the pool, giggle about it, then steal what's left of your self-esteem (and manhood) by telling all your friends.
3. The Computer Nerd
Now, when I say computer nerd, I don't mean that in a derogatory way. In fact, I have the utmost respect for computer nerds, geeks, or whatever you want to call them.
Except when they create a computer program designed to predict each and every game in the tournament. And it works. And they're in your pool. And they end up winning.
Then to add insult to injury, they infect your computer with a deadly worm. Like I said, IT guys rule the world.
4. The Basketball Savant
This is the guy who can spout off the entire starting lineup of the 1977 Marquette championship team (including subs), and coaching staff to boot. His (or her) basketball knowledge is amazing, extensive, and you want it. Or at least access to it.
This one isn't so hard to take, except that you've spent all year emulating this guy, using his tricks, listening to his advice, only to have him win your pool anyway. Oh well, there's always next year...and he'll be there.
5. Your Dad
That's right, your Dad, the man who raised you, taught you everything you know about college hoops, and took you to your first game.
It's no shame to lose to your father. After all, he is old enough to remember Lew Alcindor, John Wooden, UCLA's amazing run, Magic vs. Bird, and Indiana's undefeated season. But he still likes to win, and chances are he didn't teach you ALL he knows about the college game.
Hey, cheer up; with any luck, he'll split his winnings with you, or at least buy you a beer. He is, after all, still your Dad.
So why do it at all—why even fill out the damn bracket, let alone lay down good money to join in the office pool if you're guaranteed to lose?
Just like every one of the 64 teams that make it to the big dance, there's always that glimmer of hope that they'll be the ones hoisting the championship trophy and cutting down the nets—just as you hope that at the end of the tourney you'll be the one collecting the cash, receiving the accolades, and buying the beer.