Columns, Sports

McCoy ’14: The multiple faces of the bracketologist

By
Sports Columnist

We’re currently in the midst of arguably the two greatest sports days of the year. With 32 games in 36 hours, from noon ‘til midnight on both Thursday and Friday, the first round of the NCAA tournament promises dramatic upsets, frantic comebacks, epic collapses and Gus Johnson seizure-inducing buzzer beaters.

But of course, the American cultural phenomenon of March Madness is more than just the games themselves. It’s all about the brackets. From office pools to family pools to swimming pools (Spring Weekend 2013, AMIRIGHT?!), pouring over brackets with pride and money on the line has become a staple of the sporting zeitgeist to the point where “bracketology” has earned its spot in the vernacular.

Filling out a bracket can be one of the most challenging tasks for the sports fan, whether it’s someone who has followed RPI rankings from October or someone who thinks a mustachioed Adam Morrison is still sobbing in the fetal position at midcourt (Heartbreak City for you Johnson fans). In my younger years, I spent my Selection Sunday nights scrutinizing teams, weighing risks and revising my picks until I was left with a tangled web of scribbles and eraser marks making up a bracket to be busted within the first six hours of day one. I also made my cat fill one out by yelling the team names at her and then judging her reactions. (I routinely bested her picks of a seven, nine, 14 and 16 seed in the Final Four — and socialized with humans.)

Many people think they have the unique and right method to solving the riddle of the bracket, but I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. In your pool, you’ll likely see competitors fulfilling several archetypes of the bracketologist — you yourself are probably one, as well.

The odds of picking a perfect bracket are 1 in 128 billion, but these people all give it a shot — in some ways better than others.

The Safety Net — A nervous wreck about embarrassing him or herself in front of friends, family and coworkers, the Safety Net minimizes risk, steering clear of upsets and Cinderella runs — favoring instead a plain vanilla bracket with all one seeds in the Final Four. On occasion, the Safety Net is known to go out on a limb and send a 10 seed to the second round or (gasp) a five seed to the Sweet Sixteen. The likely result is a middle-of-the-table finish. No glory and no fun — but no humiliation around the water cooler — the Safety Net is the most common breed of bracketologist.

The Plagiarizer — Spends his days studying the picks of “experts” and former players from numerous media outlets. The Plagiarizer considers him or herself a student of the game but after several stabs at the bracket, ends up copying the Sports Illustrated centerfold. Warning: This may lead to expulsion from bracket pool if discovered.

The Cinderellaphile — Picks multiple double-digit seeds to make runs into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. The Cinderellaphile understands that he or she is not likely to win the bracket but little does he or she care. It’s all about the bragging rights, and through May you’ll be likely to hear about the next George Mason, VCU or Butler if the Cinderellaphile manages to strike gold.

The Stat Mongerer — This person is likely to put the most effort into his or her bracket. Studying everything from strength of schedule to home and away records and records against the RPI top 50, the Stat Mongerer is cold and calculating in his or her approach. The Stat Mongerer is a yearly threat to take the bracket, but whatever the result, ends up losing after realizing the hours he or she spent in front of acomputer screen.

The Fanboy — Who cares that my alma mater is a 13-seed? The Fanboy throws all logic out the window and believes that picking his or her favorite team to win should will them to victory. Likely refers to the players as “my boys” or on a first name basis, even though the Fanboy graduated in the class of ’88. When the team ultimately crashes and burns in the second round, the pain is doubly harsh on the Fanboy.

The Funny Guy — Thinks it would be just HILARIOUS if four 16-seeds reached the Final Four or if South Carolina won it all because its mascot is the Game Cock (LOL!). He or she will pick teams in the NIT and likely give his bracket a pun-heavy name, probably something having to do with balls. The Funny Guy also enjoys the trash talking but is quick to remind everyone that he or she is so delightfully irreverent that he or she has no shot of winning. This person is a perennial sure bet to finish somewhere near last.

The Elitist — Picks teams based on their reputations as institutions of higher learning. The Elitist remembers the good old days when the Ivy League schools were the kings of collegiate sports and is convinced that the most cerebral teams will outsmart their dumb jock opponents. This year, the Elitist’s Final Four consists of Duke University, Harvard, Georgetown University and University of California at Berkeley. He or she will finish toward the middle of the pool but will finish number one in being an asshole.

The Regionalist — Hates what is happening to the tradition of college sports and the dissolving of the traditional power conferences. The Regionalist pledges his or her allegiance to a single conference and is likely to select a Final Four consisting of those teams. The Regionalist most commonly emerges from the lands of the Big 10, ACC and SEC and considers him or herself a fan of the conference as a whole, maximizing the chances of having his team win.

The Aesthetician — A common find among moms, the Aesthetician prioritizes his or her picks based on school colors, uniform designs and mascots. They just want to “have fun,” and that Oregon Duck is just so silly! Also known to root for good sportsmanship and pageantry, the Aesthetician usually forgets that he or she submitted a bracket in the first place. He or she will beat you and make you question your fanhood.

Whichever method you may subscribe to, bracketology is always a crapshoot. So sit back, relax and enjoy having your heart broken and wallet emptied, only to do it all over again next year.

 

Ethan McCoy ’14 is resigned to another year of blind guessing and mediocre bracketology. Commiserate with him at ethan_mccoy@brown.edu.

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  • elitist

    I like the elitist picks. Duke and Harvard in the championship game! Too bad I didn’t get into either school!