For most people, March Madness begins on Thursday at noon, when that first game of the first round tips off.
(For some people, bound to challenge that first line, it begins with the Play-In game on Tuesday night.)
For me, March Madness creeps into my head when the calendar turns to March...and becomes a full-blown epidemic as soon as the Selection Show ends on Sunday night.
A look at the week to this point shows why maybe I'm a bit crazier than you. (And if I'm not, I'd love to hear it, because I could use some reassurance.)
Historically the Sunday of the selection show has been down time for me - I'll watch the selections and seedings, but I don't really start thinking about my picks yet. This year I was chomping at the bit to get my daughter's picks made, so after the selection show and after she got into her pajamas, I spent the time putting her to bed getting her picks. Many of her picks are based on the states she likes from her state puzzle. She picked Duke to win it all, over BYU, which was another draw for her - teams with letters. (Her: "What was the one with the 'U'"? Me: "UC Santa Barbara?" Her: "Yeah. That one." Me: "You sure? Over Ohio State?" Her: "Yes.") But, weirdly, and I don't know where this comes from, for the second year in a row she picked Robert Morris to go multiple rounds.
A word on the selection show. First of all, you'd think with the technological advances we have made to this point we could get rid of the delay on the live shots of the teams watching their seedings. And secondly, are they cheering at their spots? Their selections? Or the fact that they've just seen themselves on TV? Because, to be honest, I could do without those cutaways. Give me the seedings, and let's move on. Show me one bubble team live shot, a team that wasn't sure it was going to make it, and their joy, and that's it. I'll deal with the delay there. I don't need to see the delayed reaction of Morgan State seeing themselves on TV.
I think I have a touch of OCD. Just a touch. It manifests itself in just a few things - a couple of examples are I like to read license plate numbers, and I need to make my picks for the NCAA Tournament on the bracket in the New York Daily News. This was not a problem for the first 8 or so years I picked the tournament (Oh yeah, I have every bracket I've picked since 1993, with detailed records), because I either lived at home or was home from college on spring break, I think. After that, it's become harder because I've had to find convenience or grocery stores that had the Daily News. Only a couple of times have I missed the News bracket.
This year was relatively easy. I hit Target on the way home from school, but they didn't have any newspapers..so I went to stop #2 - Stop and Shop. Great selection of newspapers, including the New York Daily News.
I spent the rest of Monday night picking the games. Got hung up a few times - last year, I think, when I couldn't decide between two teams I went with the better three-point shooting team. This year I'm looking at schedules just to get an idea of who teams beat or lost to. And I've been looking at road records, but that really shouldn't matter. Though, in my defense, teams aren't playing at home. Didn't finish the picking process, but I did get to the Sweet 16.
My wife sat in bed and was writing furiously for about 4 and a half minutes. I didn't know what she was doing until she shoved her bracket in my face. I do not approve of how little thought she put into her selections.
Got home late on Tuesday, but I finished my picks. I hit a groove at a certain point where I just write down the picks, in ink, and there's no turning back.
Last thing on Tuesday is the therapy of writing out the process in the blog. I do this every year. I think it's probably good to get it out there. This way if it turns out that my wife leaves me because she's tired of hearing me talk brackets, someone will read this and know that she was competely justified in doing so.
Nothing to do now but wait. I'll miss the first set of games at noon on Thursday, but I'll be out of school immediately and home in time for the end of the second set. Hopefully I'll get my Sports Illustrated, too, because they have the bracket centerfold on which I like to write the scores for every game for my records.
A friend once said to me, "It's a lot of work being you, isn't it?" Yes, sometimes it is. No more than right about now.