Dave Rice 11:30 a.m., Dec. 9
"Those whom the gods destroy, they first make proud." --Robert Ritter, CIA Deputy Director for Operations, in the early Jack Ryan series of Tom Clancy's novels.
Starting today, we have entered The Kingdom Of The Madness. From here, all roads lead to the Road to Indianaoplis. Sixty-five NCAA Men's Basketball teams will travel this road, but only four will reach Lucas Oil Stadium to play for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship for 2009-2010.
The religion of the moment will be "Bracketology." With each game played, another bracket (and the losing team) falls by the wayside. Starting Tuesday evening, two teams (the two lowest-ranked teams) will play the first game of the tournament...and the Madness begins!
This is the time that infects rabid NCAA fans with madness. The mission of the fans so infected--to correctly predict who will cut down the nets at the end of the game on April 5th, the perogative of the NCAA Men's Basketball Champion. The madness costs much in money, productivity, and mountains of stress. With each win comes exhilaration--especially if the hometown team advances further-and-further in the tournament.
Let that team lose, however--it's over for the year...one-and-done!
The reprecussions over the local "sports-talk" radio channel will resemble a firestorm of blame, calls for the head coach to be lynched, and other nastiness that causes many to switch the dial to "smooth jazz" to soothe their nerves.
Bracketology is a faith with a very jealous Godhead. It demands complete adoration from the faithful, and sacrifices of money (in the form of wagers), time (lost productivity at work), and sometimes blood (bar brawl after the fans on one team are mortally insulted by fans of another team).
Fortunately, the "madness" only runs until the first Monday night in April...but the repercussions can last far longer. Lost jobs (due to getting fired for not doing your job), evictions and foreclosures (due to gambling the rent-or-mortgage payment on the outcome), marital strife (due to one spouse neglecting the other at this time), increased DUI/DWI arrests (driving after getting sloshed as your team leaves the tournament)--lay all of these and more at the gates of the Kingdom Of The Madness!
All of this over sixty-four men's NCAA Division I basketball teams, selected to compete for the championship and to attempt to make The Road To Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium. Sixty four squads of young men seeking their sport's Holy Grail, a few strands of basketball net--and the right to be called "NCAA Champions" for the rest of the year.
Who will it be?
"One in victory, one in misery/but only one can take it all!" --Halford, from "One Will" on CRUCIBLE.