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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
  • Gary Brown: Everyone's a fan during ‘March Madness’

  • This is the time of the year when people who hardly ever watch college basketball become engrossed in the sport.


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  • When filling out your bracket winners, never pick a 16-seed to upset a 1-seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
    It has never happened. If you do get lucky and predict the first time it occurs, people will brand you a prophet and demand you foresee Biblical events and predetermine lottery numbers.
    The college basketball tournament - "March Madness," it's called, even though it ends in April - began Tuesday night with what the NCAA calls "first round" games. What they are, actually, is "play-in" games, used to determine who will play in the real tournament, which begins Thursday.
    To be even more frank, the early games really are just a way for the selection committee to pick schools which otherwise would have claimed they should have been in the tournament anyway. Thus, committee members gain maybe seven minutes of peace and quiet before schools farther down the never-ran list start whining.
    They deserve this small blessing.
    'TIS THE SEASON
    I'm writing about all this because people no doubt are talking about it. This is the time of the year when people who hardly ever watch college basketball become engrossed in the sport.
    These seasonal fans - amateur experts - fill out brackets, picking teams based on mascot names, uniform colors and flips of coins. They watch games on television and then talk about close contests the next day with friends and co-workers, bemoaning the lateness of the night in which this excitement occurred.
    If they have a favorite team because family members attended the school, new fans might even plan parties around the games, feeding guests embarrassing hors d'oeuvres shaped like basketballs and miniature athletic shoes.
    Rivalries emerge, dividing states. Ohioans suddenly are forced to choose from among Ohio State, Ohio or Cincinnati universities. People in North Carolina have a choice of North Carolina, North Carolina State, or Duke. Other fans must pick between Florida and Florida State, Kentucky and Louisville, or Michigan and Michigan State. I haven't checked any history books, but I think this might have been why Virginia and West Virginia split.
    Catholics are torn in loyalty because St. Mary's, St. Bonaventure, Xavier, Loyola, Marquette, and Georgetown all are in the tournament. Churches have divided over fewer differences of opinion.
    ENJOY THE EVENT
    Still, most of us enjoy this good-natured competition. We might even take advantage of it, betting with a neighbor so that, "OK, the deal is that if Lamar beats Vermont, you'll mow my yard the first time when the grass starts to grow..."
    I can't condone gambling, but filling out a bracket for the NCAA tournament office pool hardly seems like gambling, unless you pick teams with hyphenated names or schools with unidentifiable acronyms.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Tell me again what MVSU and LIU Brooklyn stand for?"
    So, my advice is to have fun during this tournament time. Soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the excitement. Forget about the hit our gross national product is taking while we're all fiddling around with brackets decisions. Go ahead and spend nearly all your time trying to figure out whether the East, West, South or Midwest region has the toughest road to the Final Four.
    Just don't pick 15-seeds to beat 2-seeds, either. That's not gambling. It's charity. Brackets like that ought to be deductible.

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