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November 24, 2014
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Columns

Don’t waste your time with NCAA brackets

“My bracket has gone to s—.”

A glance at the television, a brief double-check of the Bracket app, and there it is: no Duke University in the Final Four. The disappointment fills the failed bracket-picker’s body and generates an urge to shout expletives at the TV screen, despite just witnessing a great college basketball game.

If I had a penny for every time I heard someone complain about their bracket this past week, I would have at least a dollar. The obsession with brackets is ruining March Madness because people care way more about their brackets than the actual games.

Don’t get me wrong, I will fill out a bracket as long as I have friends who invite me to. But that’s the only reason why, because brackets take away from the love of the game itself. There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible outcomes for the March Madness tournament, making the odds of filling out a perfect bracket about 128 billion to one. The argument of bracket selections being a competition is ludicrous because selecting winning teams has as much to do with human skill as breathing.

To the “Bracketologists:” The last man on the planet who had a perfect bracket this year, Brad Binder, told ABC News, “I was rushed and headed to work,” he said when he filled his out. Then Syracuse University lost, and his bracket was not perfect anymore.

Warren Buffett’s $1 billion challenge to whomever could fill out a perfect bracket illuminated the silliness of the obsession with making brackets. I picture Buffett reclining in a bed, cackling with a cigar watching No. 12 seeds upset the No. 5 seeds, knowing that he wouldn’t be losing any money to all the people who entered his challenge.

Here’s one example of how brackets can ruin the whole sports experience: When SUNY Albany was in a close game with the University of Florida on March 20 in the second round of the tournament, I watched people across campus actively cheer for Florida because most of their brackets needed Florida to win. This is like rooting for the villain Xerxes against Leonidas in the movie “300.”

I understand that filling out brackets makes non-sports fans feel as if they’re a part of the madness, but I would rather have someone watching the games for the pure enjoyment instead of cheering to win the office pool.

Many people forget we are watching college kids play a game on the biggest stage of their lives. Watching what happens when these elite, amateur athletes perform in front of the entire country in high-pressure situations is actually really satisfying. If you forget about how questionable the NCAA’s practices are, the Division I basketball tournament is an overall grand sports event that fans should spend more time enjoying instead of agonizing over their picks.

That being said, I picked Kansas University to win it all.