Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Thing's The Thing

While trying to explain whether the NCAA basketball tournament is properly rated, Michael Kruse vents on the bane of bracketology (via Vox Day):

The NCAA tournament is properly rated. Many think it’s one of the best sporting events of the year. That’s what it is. But the whole fill-out-the-brackets thing? TOTALLY OVERRATED. I don’t do it. I won’t do it. Because I want to be able to watch Montana beat Wisconsin or Harvard beat Vanderbilt or South Dakota State beat Baylor, and enjoy that unabashedly, without worrying about whether I “picked” them or not. You “had” Montana? You “had” South Dakota State? No. You didn’t HAVE anything. You don’t deserve to claim even the most peripheral form of ownership. Because it matters to the kids on those teams and their coaches in a way that it doesn’t and shouldn’t and could never matter to you. And because they don’t deserve to be depersonalized into pieces to be so cavalierly “picked” or not “picked” in some annual national gambling exercise. And because they also don’t deserve to be called “bracket busters” if they win. It’s insulting and selfish. The point isn’t that they’ve ruined your chances to win some dumb pool. The point is that they’ve done something unexpected, exhilarating, and empowering, for themselves and the people who know them, love them, and have invested in them. Your “pick” does not count as an investment. You say this gives you a reason to watch and to care? “Picks” make you care about the thing you’ve set up to give you a reason to care about the thing...NOT the thing itself. The thing is the thing. Your brackets are not. At stake in games over the next three weeks: goals, dreams, jobs, futures. That’s not enough for you? An interest based on brackets is an inauthentic interest. I want my interest (or disinterest) to be real.

Amen. For the record, I did fill out a bracket this year (one) purely for purposes of amusement. But I won’t consult it every three minutes throughout the day for the next three weeks or tell everyone within earshot how well or poorly my picks have fared.

Kruse’s argument against brackets is similar to the one I’ve made for years against fantasy football. I like watching NFL football for the game itself, not whether “my” running back will score a meaningless late game touchdown to “win” a pretend game.