Friday, March 19, 2010


Day two of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is here, and for a lot of people, their hopes of winning the office pool have already been diminished. One or more of the teams they picked to advance, didn’t….fouling up their brackets and dashing their predictions.

16 games were played yesterday, and 16 more will be played today. And, in a couple weeks, Kansas will be crowned national champion. At least, that’s my prediction. But I blew it with Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and Marquette. Who knew? They're OUT.

There may well be some people missing from your workplace today, and there were probably a few not in action yesterday. A lot of guys take off the first weekend of the NCAA tourney, and get together to watch hoops, drink beer, and talk smack. And yesterday provided perfect weather for firing up the grill to char something to go along with the brewskies and basketball.

For the ladies, it may be a different story. Some are really good at predicting the winners; some do it just to be part of the crowd. Charlotte Deleste, one of the anchors on the Channel 3 morning show, told her viewers yesterday morning that filling out the brackets made her angry. She admitted she doesn’t follow basketball and doesn’t know a thing about it, but just wants to participate. She said she had no clue what “UTEP” is (University of Texas – El Paso) and thought it might be a misprint.

Her cohort, meteorologist Haddie McLean, said one year she filled out the brackets based on the mascots of the team involved…which one she thought could “take” the other. (So, the question Haddie must ask herself this year…can a Badger take a Terrier? We’ll know, this afternoon.)

And there are women like my wife, who follow college hoops, know the game, know the players, know the conferences, and are good “bracketologists”. She covered the NCAA tournament in 2000, all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis, where Dick Bennett’s 8th-seeded Badgers made it to the semi-finals and lost to eventual national champion, Michigan State. A few years ago she was covering Bo’s Badgers in the tournament at Syracuse, New York, and brought home a whole bunch of ugly bright-orange clothes for everybody in the family.

A few years back, there was a big stink made by some do-gooders that all this “gambling” on the brackets was unlawful, and there was a push made to have the cops shut down all this illegal March Madness gambling. As I recall…and recollection may be faulty, and I don’t want to look it up to spoil my story…some enlightened Wisconsin Attorney General said the Justice Department had more important things to do than send cops around to bust up office NCAA tournament pools.

Back a couple years ago I was heavily invested (I think it was 10 bucks) in the bracketology at work (MidWest Family Broadcast Group) and had won a few bucks after the first round, but the eventual grand prize/big bucks winner was a woman in the sales department who admitted it was blind luck – which annoyed the hard-core sports guys at the radio station no end.

Probably the most entertaining thing about March Madness is State Journal writer George Hesselberg’s annual coverage of the state High School Tournament, where he digs up some of the most unusual and entertaining tidbits about the teams and the tourney. His “Guide For Positive Cheering” that’s up on the paper’s website right now is ten delightful minutes that will help you find a reason to cheer for every team that’s in the WIAA tournament.

George has got it right. If you can’t have fun doing it…whether it’s the state High School Tournament or the NCAA tournament…why bother? Go Badgers.

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