It’s not just basketball either. It’s the new college football playoff, with a bracket of only four. In fact, it’s playoffs in every sport (unless they reseed each round like the NFL does). But it isn’t just sports. In recent years, ESPN Radio hosts have debuted a variety of voter-based brackets, ranging from best coaches to top DJs to favorite cereals or superheroes. And listeners have flocked to their websites to vote. So what is it about brackets? If my co-workers played cards on their lunch break, I couldn’t care less. But if they put their names in bracket-format on a sheet of paper hung in the lunch room, I’d be all over it. Give me Alice over Susan and Betty over Joann!
And if brackets aren’t enough, we also have seeds. Iowa beating North Carolina is humdrum, unless Iowa has a small little 9 by their name and North Carolina has a little 1. Then suddenly it’s a huge deal. Valparaiso and the College of Charleston mean little to us until they’re a 12- or 13-seed that advances a few rounds, and then we’re all about the Crusaders and Cougars. Last year, Connecticut won the men’s national title. No biggie, they’ve done it before. But they were a 7-seed. Stop the presses! Now imagine that ladies’ card game, only Alice has a (1) by her name and Susan has an (8). So much for getting anything done at the office.
So what is it about brackets and seeds? Why do we go ga-ga over them? Is it just that we love upsets? I mean, Cinderella’s a nice story and all, but if you put ol’ Cindy on the 16-line and her step-sisters as a #1-seed, it’s an all-timer, right? Is it the opportunity for betting? Gambling exists with any sporting event, brackets or not. I’d like to opine about how it relates to the core of who we are as Americans, but I can’t find the connection. Evolutionists would say it’s just survival of the fittest resonating within us, but then why do we pull for 13- and 14-seeds instead of 3s and 4s? Maybe it’s about looking smart, correctly filling out that bracket, besting friends, family, and coworkers. I wouldn’t know—I’ve never done it.
Why do we love brackets? Why does March Madness make us, well, mad? I can’t say. And I don’t care. I just know the brackets are here, the seeds are out, and I’ve got picks to make!