What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Now that the NCAA Basketball Tournament is underway, and all the bracket-filling-out has become bracket-fail-watching, it’s time for me as the Commissioner of the Dubsism/Dr. Brackett Basketball Bracket Challenge to dispel several myths people have about filling out a bracket. The purpose behind this is simple. Next year at this time when you get an invite to such a bracket challenge, and you don’t want to do it, you won’t have to be one of the lame-wads who cooks up some bullshit excuse to beg out of it rather than just saying “I don’t want to do it.” People beg out of these things because they think there is something complex to filling out a bracket.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Myth #1) People Get Upset If You Don’t Join Their Pool
Actually, people get upset if nobody joins their pool. The average non-workplace bracket pool on-line has about seven entrants. Think about that for a minute. If you a sports fan and your pool got less than that, it my be time to consider moving out of your parents basement, getting a job, and/or anything else which involves increasing your level of social interaction.
Now, if you ran a pool and nobody joined, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a friendless weirdo. But you may be faced with the hard realization that not all of your friends are sports fans, and they may be only being polite when the pretend to listen to your harangue about the designated hitter rule.
Either way, the only thing more pathetic than starting a pool nobody joins is to join one of those public pools because you are in fact a friendless weirdo.
Wait, I take that back. The most pathetic thing is to be that busy-body bitch at your office who complains to HR about your office pool because “it’s technically gambling.” And why is it always that same bitch who is the one trying to get everybody to go in together on Powerball tickets?
Myth #2) People Who Win These Pools Watch A Lot Of College Basketball
That’s a complete pantload, because outside of March, nobody watches college basketball anymore. If there’s a guy in your pool who says he watched a lot of Albany Great Dames basketball this year, and he doesn’t live in Albany or isn’t an Albany alum, he’s a goddamned liar.
I’m a monstrous sports fan living in the heart of basketball-crazy B1G Ten country, and even I will admit that college basketball is a solid third sports-viewing option behind the NHL and the NBA. Purdue University is in my back yard, I know for a fact the number of Boilermaker games I’ve watched this year can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Even with that paltry amount of college basketball viewing, I’m a far-and-away leader amongst people I know in terms of how much college basketball I watch. Having said that, I’ve been filling out brackets since before the Internet made it an exercise in point-and-click futility. In other words in nearly three decades and hundreds of brackets, how many times have I won?
Yeah, exactly twice. I’ve been a basketball bridesmaid more times than I care to remember, but I have only taken home the winner money two times. When you stop to consider how many pools I’ve been in, that puts my success rate right down there with a Kardashian marriage. Face it, we are all a #16, and the odds are a #1.
Myth #3) People Who Win These Pools Know A Lot About College Basketball
This one is almost as pure bullshit as #2. Nobody really knows anything about college basketball, and that includes the people who get paid to talk about it. What Dick Vitale actually knows about college basketball would fit comfortably in his ass, right next to his head.
You don’t have to know a damn thing about college basketball in order to have a bracket with a shot of winning. All you have to do is look closely at your bracket. You will notice numbers by the name of each school? Those numbers are a ranking system, which means the team with a “1″ by its name is considered better than the team with a “2″ by its name, and so on down to “16.”
Where people get confused is that there are actually four of each number on a sheet; there’s “1” through “16” in each of four brackets. So how do you know which “1” is better than the other? It’s easy. Start with the bracket in the top left corner of the page, and follow a backward “C” pattern.
Obviously, if you follow these rules, you should have more 1s and 2s moving through the brackets than 15s and 16s.
Myth #4) You Have To Pick Everything Right To Win
That’s not going to happen. Every year, they try to tell us some autistic kid somewhere filled out a perfect bracket. But I’ve never seen it. Nobody’s ever seen it. It just doesn’t happen.
Just from a strict statistical perspective, the odds are beyond prohibitive. Let’s run the numbers. The odds of you filling out a perfect bracket this year are a staggering 1 in 9.2 quintillion…9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to be exact.
Now in case you can’t grasp a number that big, try these examples:
The 9.2 quintillion number is borne of straight mathematics based on the number of possible ways the 63 game results on your bracket could be filled out. Once you factor in the reasonable knowledge, like #1 teams always advancing in the first round, overall winners almost always being at least a #4 or better, or the stuff I mentioned in #3, the number becomes more like 1 in 128 billion according to DePaul math professor Jay Bergen.
Let’s say that number is correct. If so, then every single person in the United States filled out a bracket, we would get a perfect one every 400 years.
Obviously, that mean winning a bracket pool is not an exercise in perfection. It’s not even an exercise in being right the most often. It’s really about being wrong in the right places. Losing a bunch of first-round games doesn’t matter much if you can keep your Final Four alive as long as possible.
Myth #5) You Can’t Outsmart Yourself
A #16 team has yet to beat a #1. Everybody wants to be the one who picks it. Don’t be that guy. If you do that, you’re even dumber than the guy who bets hard to an inside straight draw. It’s perfectly acceptable to pick a weird upset every once in a while, but it still doesn’t do you any good unless you happen to pick a team that makes a “Cinderella” run to at least the Sweet Sixteen.
Myth #6) There’s Such A Thing As A Guaranteed System
Honestly, you should already know this if you’ve read this far. If you skipped past all the other points thinking there was some sort of bracket Pot O’ Gold at the end of the Dubsism rainbow, not only should you not ever fill out a bracket, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote, drive, or reproduce.
There’s Alanis Morrisette-level irony in the fact that what we call Bracketology has precious little science in it. In fact, there is so little science and so much luck that it really is like a basketball version of the Price Is Right game “Plinko.” You can put all the spin on that chip you want, and you can drop it anywhere which tickles your fancy along the top of the board, but you really have no control over where that damn thing is going.
After you consider all this, getting uber-competitive over tournament brackets is kind of like bragging about how good you are at Monopoly. That’s a game all about rolling dice, not going broke, and victimizing those who do. That also means there about five times the skill involved in Monopoly as there is in picking a successful bracket. You got lucky to land on Boardwalk before anybody else bought it, you were lucky enough to get the cash to put a hotel on it, and you got lucky some poor slob landed on it. You are also going to get lucky if you win your pool.
So calm the fuck down already. Don’t be afraid to join a pool. Fill out a bracket and take the ride.