How to not lessen your NCAA Tournament viewing experience

ESPN does this thing now — I’m sure you’ve seen it — where they allow you to fill out your NCAA Tournament picks all willy-nilly without navigating away from the front page. Once you’ve done so, you can compete nationally or choose a group to join or whatever, and I guess all that is fine. But the worst part is what comes next: you can decide to CONTINUE filling out brackets all willy-nilly.

In one bracket you can decide Kansas is ripe for an upset via Detroit; in the next, you can play the Tom-Rob-is-Carmelo-in-’03 card. You can have a couple safe brackets and a couple crazy ones. Maybe you think every 12 seed will win this year — you could pick that in a crazy bracket. Maybe you think it’s all 1s and 2s in the final four — you could pick that in your safe one.

The point is, ESPN giving this option is making us believe that filling out more brackets will keep us in it longer, and therefore enhance our enjoyment of this wonderful tournament.

This is not the truth.

Do not fall into the trap.

You should know this right now: you will not win all that prize money ESPN is offering. Just like you won’t win the lottery. Just like you won’t suddenly wake up next to Kate Upton. Just like you won’t get eaten by a shark. These are not facts that are meant to depress*. They are meant to free.

*Obviously that shark thing is pretty decent news.

The greatest thing about the NCAA tournament — and I’ll get to the second greatest here shortly — is that in the first two rounds and sometimes on, in games you’d usually care nothing about*, you’re absolutely bleeding with the team you’ve picked. You are screaming and high-fiving and shit-talking as if this is your team. The energy is incredible, and it lasts all day Thursday and all day Friday and all of Saturday and Sunday.

*Be honest, would you watch a regular season Notre Dame v. Xavier matchup? Some of you might. I’m flipping to Seinfeld.

Filling out multiple brackets gives us a false sense that we can keep this feeling going longer — into the second weekend — if we can just get one of those brackets to be somewhere near the hunt, if our hopes for $100K can crumble just a little later.

But this line of thinking ignores the second greatest thing about the the dance — the stories that always seem to emerge. By the second weekend, we have attached ourselves to teams we had leaving on day one. We fell in love with Steph Curry in 2010. Last year it was VCU, and in 2006 it was George Mason, both 11(!) seeds, both to the final four.

By the second weekend, our brackets are just afterthoughts in most cases, but that’s okay. There’s enough going on to keep us enthralled. There are enough underdogs to keep the excitement up, to give us someone to root for, to make us feel like we are a part of something.

You might still have some bracket excitement left if one or two of your 10 brackets have panned out, but by then it’ll be unnecessary — there will be bigger stories out there. And you’ll have missed out on fully enjoying that first weekend, that glorious, turn-your-stomach-over, pull-your-heart-into-your-throat first weekend. People will ask you who you have in the 8-9 matchup, and you’ll say things like, “Well, in two brackets I want team X to win, but…” And those people who asked will despise you, immediately. Especially if those people are me.

That first weekend starts Thursday, by the way. Better get your brackets bracket filled out.

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