Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And Then There Were Three.......More

Let me extend my thanks to the heartless taskmasters at the NCAA. As if my March is not hectic enough, they have now chosen to allow another degree of difficulty to the mix. Annually, I run a March Madness Pool for the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, a tournament that has been comprised of 65 teams for the past decade all playing their way down to the first Monday night in April. Yes, I know that the tournament is still known as March Madness even though the title game is played in April (and sometimes the Final Four is as well). Take up your complaints over the continuing accuracy of the name with those folks who run it. None of whom by the way even looks remotely like me.

Yesterday the NCAA announced that beginning in 2011 (a/k/a "next year") Madness will get three additional invitees. The field will be expanded to sixty-eight. All sixty-eight combatants will be unveiled on Selection Sunday. However, whereas the past decade has featured one "play-in" game leading up to Thursday's first slate of opening round games, now four games will be played in the space between Selection Sunday and the tournament's first Thursday. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the First Four.

The good people of Dayton, Ohio should benefit from this scheduling largess. Dayton has hosted the play-in game since its introduction and the NCAA is considering having Dayton host all four of the "new" first round games (although rumor has it that the NCAA is just paying lip service to Dayton and shall announce on Selection Sunday that all four games are going to be played in Miami, Florida instead). Just think of how pissed off Dan Gilbert will be then; huh? The NCAA knows better than to cross him. He has access to the Internet and an abject lack of common sense and dignity and he is not afraid to use that combination to get his way.....or at the very least to vent his spleen.

While I am happy for the people of Dayton (Go Flyers!) I am less than happy for....well, for me. I am not happy about this expansion of festivities at all. What the NCAA has done - bless their blackened little hearts - is create more work for hard-working, well-intentioned people such as Yours truly who operate and manage March Madness pools. I am an old school pool master. I do not use an on-line resource to tabulate everyone's scores and to keep track of the standings as the tournament progresses. I do everything by hand. Adding four more games into the mix in what is usually the calm before the March Madness storm for me is not exactly the answer I was hoping for to the question of , "What have you done for me lately?"

Life is funny. No matter how much I might want to see myself as the center of the universe in the cozy - albeit uncluttered - confines of my own mind invariably something or someone comes along to remind me of my true place in the world. It is all good. Life has taught me that things usually work about better when I am not the focal point of the exercise. And besides, the NCAA has added three more spots on the dance card, which increases the likelihood that either or both my beloved Alma mater or good ol' State U will make like the proverbial blind squirrel and find a nut.......probably not even a little bit at all.

Swell, while making me do more work than ever before to organize a bracket that I never have come close to winning once in the decade and a half that I have run it, the powers-that-be have opted to kick me in the face for good measure. Come mid-March there will be three schools very happy to see their names in lights as a member of the field for the Big Dance secure in the knowledge that in every year prior to 2011 they would have been home watching the games on TV just like you and me.

Let the Madness begin........


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