Saturday, March 22, 2008

Let The (March) Madness Begin: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a big sports fan. And for me, it gets no bigger than March Madness.

March Madness, for those of you who are not American or live under rocks 10 months out of the year (coming out only in July and August to enjoy the sunny weather), is the nickname of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Every year, 65 teams compete in this single-elimination tournament and people like me fill out brackets trying to figure out who is going to win each game.

Why do we do this? For money, of course. :-)

How big is March Madness? Put it this way: It is estimated that companies lose more than $1 billion in productivity every year because people are focusing more on these games than on their jobs.

I am one of these people.

Folks, this is like my Christmas. To me, there is nothing like filling out my brackets (I have six this year) and living and dying on the basketball talents of spoiled, moronic college kids.

Nope, I can’t think of anything more satisfying.

With that in mind, the first days of March Madness were last Thursday and Friday. The following is a running diary of these first two crucial days:

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THURSDAY

8 a.m. There is nothing like the opening morning of March Madness. The first game is just over an hour away, and you spend the remaining time figuring out how to follow the games online without your boss seeing, and feeling hopeful -- even confident -- that your upset picks will pan out.

I get an e-mail from my friend Joe:

I have Temple upsetting Michigan State and going far!!

I speak to my co-worker Matt:

I think USC can make some noise!!

As for me:

Georgia is the scariest 14th seed I’ve ever seen!!

And that’s the great thing about the waning moments before March Madness begins: Anything...everything...is possible.

9:20 a.m. Midway through the first half: Temple is losing by double digits.

E-mail from Joe: Temple takes it in the ass.

10 a.m. Georgia is beating Xavier by nine at halftime!! I start to let my mind wander...

10:25 a.m. Georgia is still up 9!! Joe and I exchange e-mails of glee. Temple, by the way, is getting killed.

10:32 a.m. No!! Xavier has cut the lead to 4.

10:38 a.m. I return from the bathroom.

"Xavier has tied it up," Matt says.

"DAMN IT!!" I scream.

10:39 a.m. A female co-worker of me and Matt, who is not from America, ask us what we’re doing.

This leads me to:

NCAA March Madness Tangent No. 1: I hate it when non-Americans ask me to explain what March Madness is. I don’t have time to explain it, you won’t understand it, I’ll get pissed because you’re taking me away from the games, and you’ll be rolling your eyes because this whole thing sounds like a complete waste of time. Just don’t ask questions and we’ll both be better off.

10:46 a.m. Xavier is pulling away. Temple has lost. Joe and I, in separate offices, lament over what might have been.

11:15 a.m. Top-seeded Kansas is blowing out Portland State, which was expected, so Matt and I turn our attention to...

Matt: Did you know that the odds of putting together a perfect bracket are in the trillions?

Me: Trillions?

Matt: Trillions.

Me: Wow.

Matt: CBS Sportsline is offering $5 million to anyone who picks the perfect bracket. I’d love to have $5 million.

Me: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah.

When there’s no good games to watch, it’s either conversations like these. Or work.

I choose conversations like these.

1:15 p.m. E-mail from Joe:

I’ve got UCLA winning in all my brackets.

I sigh. This leads me to:

NCAA March Madness Tangent No. 2: March Madness brackets are like an investment portfolio. You need to diversify. Almost without exception, if you don’t pick the champion in your bracket, you won’t win. It’s that simple. Me? Out of my six brackets, I have four different teams winning it all.

But Joe? If UCLA loses at any point, all of Joe’s brackets become as useful as wadded-up toilet paper.

Joe did the same thing last year, and UCLA lost. And I had to console him.

Why do people insist on repeating their mistakes?

I’m not playing counselor this year. I refuse.

If Joe’s wife, Kristy, is reading this, I hope this message is sinking in. This year, you’re offering the shoulder to cry on.

2:30 p.m. Reason No. 571,463 why women should not publicly predict the outcome of sporting events:

Only two women, including my girlfriend Ramona, are full-time sportswriters at the Daily News. The one not named Ramona publicly picked Cornell to upset Stanford. Her picks actually ran in the paper, where tens of thousands of people could see.

Cornell is losing by 27. They’ll go on to lose by 24.

Along with Hillary Clinton potentially blowing the democratic primary, this will set the women’s movement back 20 years. I guarantee it.

4 p.m. I’m talking to my dad -- sports afficianado Bob Barich -- about that women’s Cornell prediction.

"What is she, nuts?!?" my dad exclaims. "Stanford was favored by 30 points!!"

Then, for some reason, my dad goes into this long rant about how when he wrote for his high school paper in the 1960s, he managed to sneak into the press boxes for Dodgers and Angels games. He talked about the food and drinks they had in the press box -- steak, lobster, whiskey, etc. All free of charge. It was a story I’ve heard many times.

"Hey Dad," I ask, "were women in the press boxes back then?"

"Nevin," he replied, "who do you think was serving the food?"

Totally demeaning.

Totally sexist.

Totally classic.

A father-son moment not soon forgotten.

My male readers will understand.

8:30 p.m. The first day of March Madness ends rather uneventfully, with the exception of USC being upset by Kansas State. This will be important when we go to...

FRIDAY

8:30 a.m. "I hate USC" e-mail from Joe No. 1:

I had USC going far. Christ.

9 a.m. Question from a female "What is March Madness? I’ve never heard of it because I’m not from America and my country’s national sport is cricket" co-worker:

Are you and Matt planning to do any work today?

Someone give me the number for Immigration. Now.

9:45 a.m. What the hell??? Tennessee, one of the top seeds in the tournament -- and a team I picked to go far in a number of brackets -- is struggling against American. Yes, that’s the actual name of the school. American.

9:50 a.m. E-mail exchange between Joe and I:

Me: C’mon Tennessee!!

Joe: I hope they lose. I think they’re overrated and don’t have them going far anyway.

Me: Hey Joe, how’s Temple doing? Did they go far? Oh...wait...

Joe goes silent.

10:30 a.m. Tennessee continues to struggle.

Matt: "Tennessee continues to struggle."

Yes, Matthew. Thank you.

10:45 a.m. Tennessee starts to pull away. I take a swig of Diet Dr. Pepper and breathe a sigh of relief.

11 a.m. "I hate USC" e-mail from Joe No. 2:

My brackets would be looking a lot better if USC didn’t play like a bunch of little bitches. I hate USC. They’re bitches. I hate them. Bitches.

11:15 a.m. Upset special!!! Western Kentucky is beating Drake, a team several people had high hopes for, by double digits.

11:17 a.m. E-mail exchange between me and Joe:

Joe: I need Western Kentucky to win. C’mon...whatever the hell their mascot is.

Me: Hilltoppers.

Joe: Hilltoppers?

Me: Hilltoppers.

Joe: How the hell do you know that off the top of your head?

Nev: It’s March Madness, Joseph. No detail is too small.

11:40 a.m. Drake is storming back and Western Kentucky’s lead is shrinking. I can feel Joe cringe.

11:45 a.m. Western Kentucky and Drake are going to overtime!!

If you heard a loud wail permeating throughout the landscape yesterday at that time, that was Joe. It’s understandable.

12:05 p.m. Western Kentucky wins on a crazy 3-pointer at the buzzer.

E-mail from Joe:

Western Kentucky!!!

By the way: Had Western Kentucky blown this game, I would’ve sent Joe an e-mail entitled "March Madness Kiss of Death" and attached a picture of himself.

During March Madness, it’s not only OK to stomp on your friends’ dreams. It’s expected.

12:25 p.m. Conversation between myself and Rachit, another co-worker of mine and a USC alum:

Rachit: Nevin, when is USC playing?

Me: They lost last night.

Rachit: Oh, they did?

Me: Yeah.

Rachit: Well, that’s OK. Because we still get to play in the tournament.

Me: No Rachit, last night was their tournament game. And they lost.

(pause)

Rachit: So when do they play again?

Me: They don’t. Their season’s over.

(pause)

Rachit: Over?

Me: Over.

Rachit then gives me one of those "I can’t believe you just told me there’s no Santa Claus" looks.

March Madness. She’s rarely kind.

1:15 p.m. "I hate USC" e-mail from Joe No. 3:

USC: University of...Stupid...Chariot...Riding...people. This sucks.

This leads me to:

NCAA March Madness Tangent No. 3: When one of your teams lose, you’ve got to let it go. You can’t harbor grudges. There’s more games left to be played, more teams that need your love and support.

Like your grandfather told my father who told me:

Sports teams are like Tijuana hookers: Cheap and replaceable.

There’s a message in there, people.

2:15 p.m. Upset special!!! San Diego is beating perennial powerhouse Connecticut. Matt and I have dropped all pretenses of work and are watching a live broadcast of the game through his computer.

2:17 p.m. E-mail from Joe:

I’ve got UConn going far too. Damn it!!

2:30 p.m. San Diego and UConn are going to overtime!! Matt and I are in "I can’t believe we’re watching a potential Cinderella story" giddiness mode.

2:40 p.m. San Diego wins on a wicked "how the hell did he hit that shot with a guy in his face?!?" fadeaway jumper!!

2:41 p.m. E-mail from Joe:

F*UCK

He wrote the word 51 times in that e-mail.

I know.

I counted.

March Madness.

Yep. It’s begun.

And now for this week’s:

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE:

One of my best friends, Kevin, turns 30 today.

He’s the first close male friend of mine to turn 30.

Damn, we’re gettin’ old.

Damn.

Do you like these blogs? Hate them? Somewhere in the middle? Leave me a comment and let me know. Your words keep me motivated...to write mine. :-)

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The best sportswriters in the world are women (I have always said this). And the best in the world is none other than my girlfriend Ramona Shelburne, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Read more about her at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramona_Shelburne

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2 comments:

Larry Israelson (Glendale, CA) said...

You know, I've heard that listening to folks bitch about their NCAA brackets is almost as bad as listening to them complain about their fantasy football/baseball teams. The exception, of course, is when your audience consists of kindred spirits. I have but one bracket this year and agree with Joe that UCLA is the team to beat. I also had Western Kentucky in round one and have Michigan State going to the Elite Eight (so far, so good). In the interest of full disclosure, I also had Duke in the Elite Eight and Georgetown winning its regional, so my bracket has no chance of being anything special. Still, if UCLA ultimately prevails I am sure to have some cash and bragging rights to show for it.

silysilvi said...

I think this is your longest post to date!!! Keep up the entertaining work.