March Sadness

A column by Michael Lopez. 

Photo by Megan Boguszko.

Photo by Megan Boguszko.

Every March even the marginally informed college basketball observer like yours truly tries to predict the winners of all the games in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. That’s 63 games in all if you’re keeping track at home. Some people even bet money and establish scoring systems to decide winners and make financial gains! What?

The odds, according to one Duke Professor, are 1 in 2,400,000,000,000 (2.4 trillion) of predicting a perfect bracket by the way. Other mathematicians claim it’s as high as 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775, 808 or 1 in 9.2 quintillion. The odds are apparently steep enough that last year Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans dangled a billion dollars in prize money to anyone who nailed down a perfect bracket. Millions of would-be future drug addicts with massive houses signed up, but approximately 31 hours later, every participant was out of contention.

The Weekend of Madness began this year at 11am on Thursday the 19th. By the time I finished lunch it had already become a war of attrition between fate and my brackets. Goliaths were being felled by Davids all over this great nation. The bodies were piling up! My blood pressure was getting out of control, my stomach growled with anger…please, stop the bleeding!

The first to fall was Iowa State as they were marched upon by the University of Alabama-Birmingham and downgraded from Cyclones to a gentle breeze. Like the gentle breeze that sometimes escapes my ass. Now the former number three seed, and my pick for a Sweet Sixteen berth, is headed back to Ames to get a jump on finals preparation. Smart move on their part. Very smart.

The number one seed from the East, Vanillanova…I mean Villainova…excuse me, Villanova, the former Final Four pick of this profoundly humbled writer was overpowered by the Wolfpack of South Carolina State. And for this act of betrayal I bid ‘thanks’ to the Mildcats for screwing me and just about 97 percent of America. On a more personal level, I went to a Carmelite high school and I knew Dominicans were soft. I’m thankful I decided not to apply to or attend their college!

The Razorbacks of Arkansas found themselves tarred by the ‘Heels of the University of North Carolina setting in motion a series of gastrointestinal events that led me to down 16 sweet antacids. These worthless college kids! These future senators, microbiologists and Leisure Studies majors let me down. Why? How dare they go on Spring Break this week! What did I ever do to them?

But the day wasn’t for naught as Notre Dame won in overtime late Saturday night against Butler. The Irish, led by a scrappy Irish lad named Connaughton, took the fight to the Bulldogs and prevailed as midnight gathered. The wee 6’5” lad brought joy to the Irish faithful worldwide by capping off the Irish Thanksgiving week with the victory.

But Sunday came and with it even more March Misery, O’ God why me? Why now do you bless the Spartans of Michigan State with the power of shooting accuracy, rebounding ability and the quickness to conquer the mighty Virginia Cavaliers? I’ll tell you why! Because I once owned a brand new ‘98 Chevy Cavalier and the transmission went out after only six months. I could only go in reverse. I should’ve heeded this prophesy from years past. I shouldn’t have chosen the Cavaliers to make it to the championship game.

But before the shock of the Cavalier collapse subsided, the Jayhawks of Kansas were shocked by the Shockers of Wichita State, which by the way is actually in the state of Kansas for all you young geography students out there. The Jayhawks went down in a horrible display of poor shooting and rebounding and defense. Kansas? Not this year, Kan’tsas!

My brackets are almost ruined as the deluge March Madness basketball slows down its pace to a relative trickle after Sunday night. The next fortnight will be a calm and measured tournament devoid of all the frenzied activity of the first 96 hours of play. I can continue to hope that everyone else’s brackets are in as much crisis as mine are. I can try to remain optimistic as Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Gonzaga march on. Speaking of Gonzaga, what’s up with the name? It sounds uncomfortable.

Me: “Hey Doc, I got the gonzagas again, I’m really itchy and burny!!!”

Doc: “I’ll prescribe you a very strong ointment, Stay out of the sun and don’t climb any more trees. OK?” 

In the end it was, to me, just another year of prepping, studying, analyzing stats and odds and countless chin-ups wasted. Another Thursday morning of optimism devolves into yet another Sunday night of sorrow. But at least I have Cubs season to look forward to and their drive for another World Series title.

Michael Lopez is a lifelong Chicagoan who currently resides on the South Side.


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