Each year, ESPN goes to the pits of Mt. Doom to unearth their NCAA Men's Basketball "Bracketologists" - talking about it in serious tones like it's an actual thing and not something completely fabricated. When did you get to just make up a career? I need to get business cards developed that certify me as an expert Sandwichologist. Or perhaps Napologist.
For many of us, NCAA basketball pools with friends and coworkers never go the way we hoped. Glory and bragging rights continuously slipping through our fingers. Fear not, fellow bracketeer, I'm here to offer you free advice, though donations to my charity, "Kelly Van De Walle's Charity For People Named Kelly Van De Walle" are accepted, but only in denominations greater than $500. Actually, given my track record, I'm not going to offer you any advice. Instead, heed the advice of that one girl you know that always beats you; typically this is a wife or girlfriend.
She knows nothing about the players or even the game, except that it's on her list of Banned Living Room Television Programs or Shows She Finds You Watching That Make Her Roll Her Eyes Very Dramatically. She doesn't notice that the three-point line in college is three feet shorter at the top of the key. She doesn't have any idea what "top of the key" means, but speculates it's either a type of pie or cheerful British greeting.
Despite this, she always wins. She picked ninth-seeded Nova over eight-seeded GMU last year not because she felt as though Corey Fisher was going to have a solid game against GMU's defense, but because she has fond childhood memories of watching the NOVA science series on PBS. She picked 11th seeded VCU to get to the Final Four because "Hey, their mascot is the same as mine was in high school!"
There's a method to her madness. There's got to be. Here is her secret, straight from the source.
"Hi there. Looks like you need some help with that brackety-thingy you make me fill out every year that I could care less about. No problem. Instead of condescendingly offering ME your 'expertise' you should be taking MY advice. Why? Only because I've beat you in every one of these stupid things every single year.
Like many guys that apparently do this for absolutely no reason, you probably do some preliminary research, read up on the matchups and dig up some background on the teams. You try and make an educated, informed decision based on science, statistics and laws of probability. Ugh. That is SO dumb. This is time you should be using to spend time with me or do some cleaning. Do you even know where the broom is?
Stop being logical
Logic gets you nowhere, unless of course you're a Vulcan or something. Isn't that somebody in your Star Wars videos? What's his name, Spork? Anyway, stop looking at three-point shooting percentages and total defensive rankings or whatever and start looking at the things that truly matter - things like uniform styles, mascots and team colors. For example, ohmygosh, Lehigh's uniforms are just SO much cuter than Duke's. But they are less cute than Xavier's. And isn't Xavier the name of that wheelchair guy in those X-Men movies you make me watch? See, I listen - I know things. He was a nice guy that tried to help, so obviously the Fighting Xaviers will beat Lehigh. But wait, they aren't a wheelchair school, are they? That would be so unfair. But good for them making it into a tournament where people can run.
Okay, look what you did here. You picked third-ranked Georgetown to beat 11th-ranked North Carolina State. Google told me North Carolina's mascot was the wolfpack. Georgia's is something called a "Hoya" but their mascot is a bulldog. Well, bulldogs are ugly and Hallmark came out with that cute stuffed animal that looks like a wolf. You read a story and it barks! So, obviously they would win. Why are you looking at me like that?
Look at the players' photos
These can tell you a great deal. You want a team that smiles a lot. The more they smile, the nicer they are and, therefore, more deserving of beating the other team. Like, look at that Justin Jackson from Cincinnati. First guy I clicked on. He's smiling! Well, I don't need to see anymore. They will handily beat Florida State. What's Florida State's mascot again? A Seminole? That's kind of racist. They definitely won't win.
Get really annoyed at how long this takes and just pick teams at random
HOW many teams do I have to pick? Ohmygosh, this is taking literally forever. I'll just circle the last 20 teams and go shopping.
[1 week later]
Look at that. I'm in the lead. How about that!
Honey ... Honey? Why are you crying?"
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Basketcase Mental Hospital For Husbands That Can't Believe Their Wives Beat Them Every Single Year At This Stupid Thing.