Thursday, March 17, 2011

Watching A Friend Pop His March Madness Cherry: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

Fair warning: If you don't like sports, you won't like this week's blog. You'll be bored, roll your eyes, sigh a lot, and that's before you get to paragraph 3. Just stop reading and come back next week.

Still with me? Cool. :-)

For those of you who were born yesterday, this week was the beginning of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, where 68 of the top college basketball teams in the nation compete in a single-elimination tournament and people like me fill out brackets trying to figure out who is going to win each game, following the games online at work, watching nothing but basketball at home, ignoring our friends, loved ones and co-workers for three weeks, etc.

Three years ago, I took my readers through the craziness of following the first two days of March Madness. Two years ago, I wrote about how my alma mater, Cal State Northridge, made the tournament, almost pulled off a gigantic upset, and how I almost had three massive coronaries from the excitement. Last year, I focused on how I was doing so many brackets that one pool I was in considered implementing "The Barich Rule" and limiting the number of brackets a person could do.

(By the way: "The Barich Rule" was not implemented this year. Thank you, Josh Kleinbaum.)

This year, I want to talk about my friend Fawzi.

Fawzi is like many people in this world: Not much of a college basketball fan. To be honest, few people no longer in college -- even if they're big sports nuts (like Fawzi is) -- really are. Once you get out of college, you stop following college basketball as closely, but the experience of college and the element of college basketball go hand in hand. Once one is gone, the other can't sustain.

But that's what makes March Madness so brilliant. You see, you don't need to be a huge college basketball fan to enjoy it. That's what a lot of folks don't understand. Many people who enter tourney pools are not college basketball fans. It's not about the love of college hoops. It's about playing with your friends, trying to pick some winners, and seeing if you can actually perform well without knowing what the hell it is you're doing.

And that's the beauty of it: That's possible! It can be so difficult to predict who wins each game that even "experts" don't know what they're doing half the time. You can get lucky, pick something random, and win money!

And when you factor all of that in, here's what happens:

You become obsessed.

Within minutes, you are following box scores on ESPN. You're watching the games on CBS. You are literally living and dying on every basket, screaming obscenities you never knew you knew, yelling at players that you don't even know the names of. You become the biggest fan of any team you happened to pick at that moment. And you switch allegiances like you switch socks. One minute you like Xavier because you picked them to score the first-round upset. The next minute you're screaming at their star player to tear a ligament because you don't have them going past round two. You rub it in to everyone who will listen when you pick an unlikely winner, and you feel 2 feet tall when you pick the loser.

For two years, I tried explaining this to Fawzi, with no apparent success. Last year, he just refused to play. Absolutely refused. "I'm not a fan of college basketball," he said. "I just don't care," he said. "What's the point?" he said.

But I was persistent. I pursued. I wore him down. Because I knew. I just knew...

And finally, earlier this week, Fawzi plopped down his $5 entry fee and announced:

"OK, I'll do one bracket."

And just like that, a crack addict took his first hit. :-)

Fawzi filled out a bracket, the tournament started today at 9:15 a.m., and by 9:19 a.m....

"Nev, Clemson is up 6-2! I picked them to win!"

And just like that, he was hooked.

Fawzi started following box scores, getting scoring updates every 18 seconds. He hopped around the office smiling like a 7 year old on Halloween when Clemson was winning. He moped around, scowling and kicking chairs when Clemson blew a double-digit lead and lost. He was happy. He was sad. He was ecstatic. He was miserable. And this only took us to 9:27 a.m. He was glued to any and all information about the games. Anytime I gave him an update, he already knew about it.

It was like watching a caterpillar bloom into a beautiful butterfly.

Fawzi was hooked now. Hooked into the March Madness craze. He screamed when Louisville was upset by Morehead State. Bitched and moan to a co-worker that everyone in our tourney pool was tied for first place while he was stuck in 15th. Kicked himself for not picking Richmond over Vanderbilt. And patted himself on the shoulder when he realized that, "Hey, turns out I did pick Richmond to win after all!" (It's OK. He's a rookie.)

And that's what Fawzi discovered today in his first foray into March Madness. It really is maddening. You're up and down 647 times throughout the course of the morning. And in the afternoon, you bust out the booze just to handle the roller coaster. There's truly nothing like it. And anybody and everybody can participate and experience the thrill, regardless of sports knowledge.

Fawzi became a March Madness man today.

The butterfly...has taken flight.


And now for this week's:


I can't stop listening to this song.

As bad as it is, watch the whole video. Two minutes in, it gets worse than you can ever imagine. :-)


Alex said...

MARCH MADNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Josh said...

Next year: The Barich Rule

Julio said...

LOL awesome post Nev. I remember my first tourney pool

Daniel said...

I picked Morehead State. Eagles baby!!!

Amy said...

I still don't see the point. I played in a pool once and thought it was boring as hell. Sorry Nev, you're wrong

David said...

March Madness rocks! How many pools you in, Nev?

Nev said...

15 :-)

David said...


Fawzi said...

First off, that was the most brilliant thing I've ever read. Second, an update: I've always hated UCLA because I like USC, but after yesterday I hate UCLA more than ever. And I've always hated Gonzaga because I went to LMU, but now that Gonzaga won yesterday, I hate them even more

Jesse said...

Beautiful imagery, Nev

Ramona said...

Babe, you absolutely nails why this is 86.9 percent of males 18-39's favorite time of year.

Edward said...

Nice work. I'm probably in the 13.1 percent category. It's all work to me now. That, and I don't follow it as closely as I used to.

Ramona said...

That's kinda the point, tho. Once you're sucked in, you're in deep!

Edward said...

And that's my point: because it's work, I don't get sucked in.

Greg said...

Agreed, there are only a few places the phrase "pop your cherry" should be used Nev, guilty as charged Nev...