Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mad as a March Hare

I don't know where that saying comes from. Maybe early spring bunnies really are crazy. What I can tell you, especially all you women, is what I discovered about some other March sayings.
It's time for March Madness.
I've considered in the past writing a book called "The Girlfriend's Guide to Sports: ESPN and Estrogen," because every March, the work pla
ce changes. Depending on where you live, all the men, and sometimes the women, seem to resemble the mad march hares.
It's about college basketball. Here is your primer.
Why do I need a primer? you ask. Because a large portion of conversation you will hear the next few weeks will sound like German if you don't listen. Male pastors will thread it into expositions on the Gospel of Mark. Co-workers will have pools going on elimination rounds. And most importantly, this is the only thing that has earned me respect in several situations in recent years.

I don't care if it shouldn't be this way. It is this way. Therefore, ladies, we may as well a) join in the fun, b) use it to our advantage, and c) possibly win some of the brackets contests at work, school, or online.
College basketball is appealing to many because of alma mater associations, regional fidelity, and the appeal of a sport that still focuses more on skill and less on shoe endorsements and t-shirt guns. I happen to have lived in two rabidly baskeball st
ates: Indiana, home of the movie "Hoosiers", and Kentucky, home of the craziest fan base I've ever seen. UK tickets are impossible to come by. All games are sold out. You have to know someone. And it's dangerous to be cheerful - about anything - the day after a loss. Reject their love, and reject them. One day, while working in the nursing home (see former posts for anecdotes), I was interviewing a new resident. "How many children do you have?" I queried. "Oh, three. Or is it four? Well, now, that's funny, I cain't seem to recall. It's either three or four.." I asked a few more questions. Then: "Do you like sports?" "Some." "What about basketball?" She sat bolt upright. "Well, I love it, if it's UK basketball!"
Some things run deep.
Here's a few handy things to know:

1) College basketball tournaments run in March - the famed March Madness. Therefore, consider carefully what color you wear if you live in a rabid state. In Michigan, blue and yellow vs. green and white can mean a lot. Wearing red on a UK game day is like flipping Kentuckians off because you're identifying with rival Louisville Cardinals. You don't have to be a sports fan to notice what color everyone's car flags are. And even if you don't care, be aware - aware enough to explain that you just like the color. Unless, of course, you do care. Then see below.
2) There are "Christmas/Easter" basketball fans, who don't follow things closely during the season, but show up to support their region/team in the playoffs. These don't know stats or win/loss records, but they want to get together with friends on game day and may fill out brackets.
3) What are brackets? A) A hardware item found on HGTV. Also
, B) the diagram/rubric which displays the top 64 teams and how they're paired to play each other. It grows progressively smaller as teams are eliminated. It's actually kind of fun, if you like diagramming sentences. And I do. Here's an example from a few years ago:

Notice how it's divided into regions. Now, as teams are eliminated, there are some titles. When 16 are left, it's the "Sweet Sixteen." Then, the "Elite Eight." Then, the "Final Four." Everyone wants tickets to the Final Four, by the way. EVERYbody. Because even if you somehow win some at work, and you don't want them (and you should), you can eBay them for hundreds or thousands of dollars, or win LOTS of brownie points with a loved one. Now, a bracket caviat: I said there are 64 teams. There are, but there are actually 65, and two play each other to be one of the 64. It's one of those things that's handy to know.
4) Bracket Lingo: seeds. Not the kind I've been examining in Burpee catalogues. See how the bracket has four sections? So each section has 16 teams in it? Each of those 16 is assigned a number from 1-16, depending on how well they've played this season. And the first round of games, #1 plays #16, #2 plays #15, #3 plays #14, and so on. Obviously, #8 vs. #9 is going to be a close call. What's fun is watching the upsets - when #14 beats a #3 ranked. (Or, to apply lingo, when a 14 seed beats a 3 seed.)
Who determines seeds? Computers and a committee, which means there's always someone griping about how their team didn't make it high enough. So if you overhear, "I can't believe Tennessee got a 3 seed," that's like saying, "I can't believe Huckabee hasn't gotten more delegates for the convention," or, "I can't believe Brooke from American Idol didn't get more votes."
5) Before the tournament, your major area paper will have a special Sports section which lists all 64 (65) teams. It will also give you their basic stats, top scorers, and general info. I like to think I analyze this information well. But ESPN hasn't called me yet. You can also do what many "Christmas/Easter" fans do, and pick your teams because they're your favorite colors, or because you have a friend living in that state. (Okay, okay, many girls do this. And maybe gay guys. I don't know.) But the point is, you print off a bracket or rip one from the paper, and fill in who you think will win each game, and who you call to be the champion. Here is where real fans get in trouble - they often put who they want to win instead of who they actually think has the better chance.
6) Mark your bracket as teams win and lose - circle or check the ones you get right. Most pools award more points for ones you get right farther into the competition. If you do online brackets, the computer automatically updates them for you. ESPN and Facebook are just a couple of websites that host these. ESPN will rank you according to everyone else in the country.
7) Advice: browse occasionally if you want to fill in brackets this year but you're also competitive. It's helpful to know, for instance, that one of UK's top players is out the rest of the season with an ankle injury. That hurts their chances. However, they just lost to #1 ranked Tennessee by only a few points, so maybe they're not so weak...
Or, watch ten minutes of Sports Center on ESPN every night. It's like watching the news highlights.
8) Planning: party planners, event planners, pastors organizing your church schedule: keep in mind that a men's prayer marathon the weekend of the Final Four might not be a productive idea, or, ladies, a Pampered Chef party might get poor attendance if it's scheduled during the final game. Now, every person, every state, is different, but just keep it in the back of your mind as a positive, too - have a men's Final Four BBQ, or have a girls' night if your gal pals aren't into basketball. Keep in mind that cities hosting games will have traffic nightmares certain dates, so maybe a trip to the Children's Museum isn't such a good idea.
A final anecdote. I worked in a heavily male-saturated, chauvinistic atmosphere at a luxury car dealership for quite a while. I was the title clerk, processing title paperwork for sales and procuring license plates for customers. The salespeople depended on me frequently for special work for out of state customers.But no matter how hard I worked to title and license a car bought in one state and taken home to another, the only feedback I tended to get was if someone was worried because their license plate wasn't in yet. It was not an enlightened, respectful environment.
Until the day I mentioned I was going to a Pacers-Cavaliers game, looking forward to seeing young prodigy LeBron James play. Several heads slowly turned. "You know who LeBron James is?" (He plays in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers.) "Yeah, I mean, drafted right out of high school, actually exceeding all the hype? Of course." And respect slowly dawned on their faces.
Cable tv: $30 a month. Respect...priceless.
Learn the lingo. Understand the culture. Slowly take over the world.
Trivia: Condoleezza Rice? Big football fan. Also Secretary of State. One smart cookie.

1 comment:

Bob said...

If you've seen a male hare/rabbit in the spring, they tend to run in circles quite fast, usually chasing a female. They will do this for quite some time, even chasing more than one female. They are crazy with lust....thus, "mad as a March hare".---bob