By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor
As a Hoosier, it’s hard to believe Wednesday night marked my first bracket-building experience. Despite my love for sports, I never got into brackets. I’m a one-team-at-a-time gal so in the fall it’s the Colts; in the winter it’s the Hoosiers; and in the spring and summer I go to baseball games for the people watching and soft pretzels. So, I never learned the pros and cons of other teams and what makes them worthy of winning in a bracket.
Although Wednesday night I was as well versed in all the NCAA double teams as I am in the arts of Tae Kwan Do, I decided to approach my pickings with a hybrid of “gut” instinct and choosing teams led by seniors or coaches who strategize to make adjustments; that’s one thing I’ve learned is more crucial than having star-power players during the Hoosier season.
The “savvy” approach I’ve seen from the participants in the just-for-fun bracket group my boyfriend, Derek, set up, presents entertainment value and some insight into the spirit of March Madness.
Younger members of the group zealously approached the bracket-building experience with the reliance of advice from more experienced bracket builders. However, once the idea of mascots were introduced the confidence smiled on the youngest member’s face as he quickly realized the secret to cracking the code of bracket success was, most definitely, picking the team with the “coolest” mascot to win. Golden Gophers? “That’s a funny name, they’ll win!” Wildcats? “Yea! My baseball team is the Mudcats, so they’re kind of the same!” In such a fool-proof system, sometimes there’s just no need to even hear the other opponent: The Panthers or... “The Panthers, obviously!” However, tough times in decision land hit when a 5-year-old is faced with two teams that have bear mascots. “Oh man, which is a better bear?,” Well, one is a grizzly and one is just a bear. “The grizzly bears, they’re usually meaner bears, right?” As if this decision is even crucial considering the highly-ranked teams were dropped on account of lackluster-named mascots long ago. “I’ll do the grizzly bears. They growl louder too, so that’s good,” he added with a proud nod. He ended up with IU vs. Panthers and a final score of 66 to 35. So, cream and crimson should definitely keep their fingers crossed about the mascot method working out.
Some people pick their bracket winners based only on uniform colors. “Does someone have a list of their ‘outfit’ colors I can see? I don’t trust teams with bad color combinations,” said a girl I went to college with. To say she lost money is an understatement. But, at least she was wearing her favorite color and cheering proudly for her “purple team” while sipping some sort of purplish umbrella-adorned drink concoction when the “purple people” lost in an upset.
Another approach is picking teams whether you’ve been in the state of the team or not: Didn’t ever wave hello to Virginia or Michigan? Well, then wave goodbye to them winning anything on a bracket.
One of the most entertaining approaches to bracket building is the ones made in the midst of decade-long bromances.
My cousin hosts bracket-building parties with the same guys he built brackets with in college. There’s beer, there’s pizza, there’s pre-bracket studying and post-bracket regrets. It’s a season of ups and downs; excitement with screaming and disappointment with phone calls, emails and text messages.
Some say, “It’s only a game.” Others may ask, “All this for putting a ball in a basket?”
Sure, sports aren’t going to save the world and at the end of the day it is just a game. But, sports bring us together; they connect us with conversations and high-fives. Sports get us watching, they get us talking and they get us in the same room. Memories are made during March Madness and not just the ones on the winning court with flying confetti. Being part of something bigger than yourself makes the madness the best part of my March memories. Being born and raised in the basketball state doesn’t hurt either. Go Hoosiers!
[friday] editor/ “Going on my gut”