There's a certain truth to the phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," which is why I have just filled out an NCAA March Madness bracket.
Meredith Hoffa: All it cost me was seven minutes of my life, plus, dollarwise, the price of a fancy sandwich (or you could say one-and-a-half normal sandwiches. Or three lattes. Or one manicure). That's not so much to part with, really, and that's all it took to secure me a spot in the betting pool my husband set up for a boisterous, excellently antic group of our friends and family.
I know zilch about college basketball. The NBA, on the other hand, j'adore -- but college basketball, no. Yet that did not stop me from jumping into the March Madness fray. Why? Because I know what's coming these next few weeks: The din of the TV will be present in my home at every moment of every day -- sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground, but always, always there, like an overly comfortable houseguest or eczema. Also, in the coming weeks, I fully expect that twice or maybe even thrice the TiVo will interrupt my viewing of E! True Hollywood Story episodes to ask permission to change channels so it can record some game -- or game recap or game analysis, and I will have to say yes since I am unsure which are the blah games and which are the truly important ones (I KNOW, I KNOW. ALL OF THE GAMES ARE TRULY IMPORTANT). Also, it is guaranteed that at some point this week, I will be engaged in a two-room conversation with my hub and his replies will start to sound all slow and disoriented, like, "Uhmmmm ... yeaahhhh ..." and I will peer into the next room and discover that this is because he is indeed not in our conversation at all, but rather on ESPN.com checking scores.
This is stuff I cannot fight. I don't even want to.
So I did the bracket. And contrary to what some members of the pool have suggested, my method for choosing teams is not random, nor is it crazytown. There is a logic behind each and every one of my picks -- I have a technique.
For example, many of my picks are food-oriented. Take Gonzaga. I eliminate it in round one because it reminds me of Gorgonzola, a highly disgusting cheese. Villanova I like, because it is like vanilla -- a very pleasurable thing (vanilla cupcakes, vanilla ice cream, vanilla shake). Purdue vs. Siena? I have no idea what this Siena is, but I pick it to win because Purdue is chicken, my least favorite of all the meats.
Also: Kansas can be playing anyone, and I will pick it because my dad grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, which is not in Kansas at all, but shares the word Kansas in common.
Kentucky also gets my vote every time, as my dear friends got married in Louisville and it was such a fantastic wedding for so many reasons, including the amazing fact that there was a bright red, seven-foot-tall penguin statue at the reception -- and after a certain number of cocktails I just gave in and devoted the rest of the night to posing with it for a series of very inappropriate photos. But back to my picks.
Butler vs. UTEP? Obviously I choose Butler, because who wouldn't love to have a butler? Like Jeeves or Mr. Stevens! To carry your stuff! Notre Dame vs. Old Dominion? Notre Dame, clearly, since Old Dominion contains the word "old," as in craggy and arthritic and not capable of shooting hoops at the college level. Xavier vs. Minnesota? That's a tough call, actually, because Minnesota brings us Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, one of my favorite radio shows ever, but Xavier is Xavier Roberts, daddy of all Cabbage Patch Kids (FYI, I ended up choosing Xavier. It's hard to trump the Cabbage Patch connection. Plus, the letter X is delightful. Xavier).
I get a very happy feeling when I look at my finished NCAA worksheet, all those extending little branches, all those blanks so thoroughly filled out. The nerdy, perpetually extra-credit-seeking fourth-grader in me likes the clean completed-ness of it. The current me likes the possibility contained in it.
Most of all, it feels toasty to be on the inside. "Oh yeah, March Madness," I'm sure I'll say in the coming weeks, the way people do. I'll totally throw it around, just like that: "Yeah, things are so crazy these days. What with March Madness and all."
(Postscript: At the time of publication, I am in last place. Dead last.)
|Meredith Hoffa's first-person writing has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, Fit Pregnancy, Business Traveler, and the new anthology, "Rejected" (Villard/Random House, 2009). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.|