Picking Splinters: Cataloging the Range of Brackets

I spend an unhealthy amount of time watching college basketball. How do I know it’s unhealthy? You know when you stare into the sun for a second and then you turn away and see all those little silver flashing spots? When I stare at a college hoops game the same thing happens to me, except those little flashing things are brackets.

As I’ve dedicated roughly 95-percent of my life to college basketball in the past two weeks (with three percent reserved for sleeping and two percent for eating … breathing is overrated) I’ve noticed that people fill out their brackets, they put a unique stamp on them, like a fingerprint. This, naturally, leaves the question of what your bracket says about you. Below are some possibilities.

The Underdog Lover: If you find yourself picking a slew of first- and second-round upsets, you obviously sympathize with Cinderella. Maybe you weren’t that popular in high school. Maybe you feel your contributions are overlooked now. Either way, you live for that one moment when you can march up to the starting quarterback, who in this scenario has a sweater tied around his neck and is surrounded not by one but by eight cheerleaders, and put him on his ass. There, doesn’t that feel good? Good thing this fantasy is happening in an office pool bracket and not in real life though. In Bracketville, that’s just an “upset,” in real life that’s called “assault.”

The Chalk Lover: To the Chalk Lover, Cinderella is a filthy maid who sweeps up lentils from the fireplace. And she’s not even good at it! This picker probably has four one-seeds in the Final Four. Boooorrrr-ing. It always has to be the best for you, doesn’t it? So you always order the filet mignon a.k.a. the sultan of the steak world. If someone came up to you with two watches, you’d buy the more expensive one because it has to be better, right? What a lousy way to live. And die. See, all four No. 1 seeds have only made it to the Final Four one time. Stick with the favorites and you’re going to lose your pool. Stick with the filet and there are decent odds you’ll die of a massive coronary. Chew on that knowledge, steak boy.

The Way of Tim Gunn: Wait, there’s a basketball game going on? These pickers are too wrapped up in the uniform designs and colors to care. That’s why, after caucusing with their co-workers you have a Final Four comprised of teams sporting your favorite color. Of course, when that favorite color is blue, it can make them look pretty smart. If you combine the color preference with higher seeds, you’d put Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Pittsburgh through to the semifinals. You could do a lot worse.

The Way of Karl Marx: All No. 8 and 9 seeds in the Final Four, huh? Power to the proletariat, comrade! You’ll show the privileged that their superior seeding means nothing! This diagnosis holds especially true if three of the four teams are UNLV, Florida State and Louisville, all of whom feature a shade of red as their dominant color.

The Patriot: This is the character that belts out his school’s alma mater while penciling them in as national champions. You could never pick against your Lehigh Mountain Hawks, could you? Kansas tempted you with their glitzy record and superior talent, but you stayed true. Too bad your loyalty won’t be rewarded. As I’m sure your co-workers will remind you, no 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1. After that they’ll question the merits of Lehigh’s status as a place of higher learning and how you got a degree. It’s okay. You can still hum the alma mater as you erase that foolish pick and salvage your integrity by picking Kansas like you should have in the first place.

The beauty in all of this is that there’s no surefire way to pick a bracket. There are sports geeks who watch hoops all night, then review the box scores and calculate the offensive efficiency scores for every team in the field only to be beaten by their fiancĂ© who has watched the sport for all of five minutes because she accidently wandered into the room. Just a hypothetical there.

So go on, put your imprint on the bracket. And don’t back down from anyone who tells you otherwise.