Those who know me well will be quite happy to inform readers that I have quite the pottymouth. My upbringing in an all-boys school in London is a testament to the fact that I can describe many unsavory bodily functions and actions in ways which would lead many a civilized parent to cover his or her child’s ears. It is with this knowledge in mind that I would like to apologize to the very sweet family seated in Treehouse for the duration of the Utah vs. Stephen F. Austin game. I would like to also again call the Jackrabbits a bunch of good-for-nothing, lily-livered hillbillies more suited to drinkin’ moonshine and leering at Cousin Darlene than to the pick and roll – see, you have to get creative when you can’t curse.
Like millions of Americans, I made a bracket this year. Over 99 percent of those brackets were busted after the completion of three games. In retrospect, those boastful emails I sent to my friends may have been premature considering ‘Make It Nastic’ currently resides in the bottom 10 percent of ESPN brackets. Sorry, Stefan. Apologies also to Coach Dawkins, since my first choice name of “Johnny Dawkins’ Spring Break” was too many characters.
None of that particularly matters, though. The great joy of March Madness lies in its sheer unpredictability. As sports fans, we love to prognosticate and pretend as if we have some grand insight into how a gaggle of college-age men will play. March Madness seems to take a perverse delight in trampling on our billion-dollar dreams and laughing at their crushed embers. At this point, I am more likely to be mistaken for Warren Buffet than to win his money. I could not care less.
Nothing encapsulates the joy of sport like March Madness. Even its very name conjures up a whole history of famous moments that reside like shooting stars on reels of black and white and faded film. It captures the fleeting passions that entrap the very soul every March. If autumn is the season of mellow fruitfulness, then March’s advent heralds the dawning of action, of hoarse yells and despairing cries from fan and player alike, the warlike grunts and stifled curses echoing. We talk of magic when we talk of March Madness and perhaps its magic lies in the fact that for a brief month, we elevate people just like us to something almost superhuman. Heroes and villains, underdogs and world-conquering Goliaths are born in the furnace of March Madness. Bryce Alford’s rain of threes, Hunter elder and younger united in a hug and an upset that charmed as many hearts as it broke brackets, sad piccolo tears. These are the moments that we will remember.
Magic is an interesting word. People tend to classify magic as the word of fairytales, of witches, wizards and werewolves. What’s often forgotten is that the best stories of magic have a human element that underpins them. Shockingly, I will never be Willie Cauley-Stein. I can be Ali Farokhmanesh, however, if I let myself believe just that little bit harder, somewhere in a corn field in Iowa. Perhaps the magic lies in the David vs. Goliath matchups that proliferate in the tourney’s first week. For two hours, 49 out of 50 states wanted 15 kids from Hampton to perpetrate a back-alley mauling of Kentucky, stomps to the feet and pokes to the eye and anything that could give the little guys a fighting chance and stop the Wildcats’ inexorable progress. They couldn’t do it. Georgia State did. UAB did. They made their own fairytales, St. Georges slaying a whole multitude of dragons. This is a magic of a certain sort.
The sounds that make up March Madness are transcendent in nature. The guttural roar of the crowd when Hunter drained his fateful three is mimicked in a thousand Treehouses across America. The despondence of a tearful Villanova fan is felt by every set of eyes glued to the TV. For one short month, the eyes of a nation are trained upon the same little world populated by 700-odd players who can etch their names in stone with every play. It’s a world of heroes, of stories and of overarching dramatic arcs. It’s the closest sport gets to a feature film. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
So, let your brackets get busted. You won’t remember whether you scored 200 or 220 points in the second round next year. Just let yourself go along with the magical ride. Every March, let yourself be immersed in this storybook world. Oh, and as always, beat Kentucky. Or, as Nigel Hayes would say, decimate the hinterlanders from the Bluegrass state.
Rub in your own bracket’s superiority to Dylan’s by contacting him at dfugel ‘at’ stanford.edu.