As my wife can attest, sports consume an embarrassingly high percentage of my television viewing and internet surfing. With a healthy base of sports knowledge, one would think I would be an expert at the March Madness office pool. But nay! Somehow Donna in accounting -- a woman 30 years my elder who watches more Lifetime than I do ESPN -- steals $5 right out of my pocket every March by winning the whole shebang. So with my sports knowledge rendered absolutely useless, I'm going with these six-and-a-half unconventional rules for this year's bracket:
1. Pick the scary mascots. I'm a fan of the University of Minnesota and it may be hard to believe, but they used to be a powerhouse in sports, even winning six national championships in football well before I was born. What happened to the program? Some claim that it has something to do with when they changed their mascot from a fierce looking gopher to the lovable, smiley "Goldie" in the 1970s, because since then, my team hasn't won squat.
2. Consider the colors. The first office pool I ever participated in was won by a woman who picked teams that wore her favorite color. Seriously, that was her entire strategy. Being a fan of the color blue, she was sitting pretty when Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, and Florida all did well.
3. Pick the Ivy League to win one game. This isn't backed up by any facts or stats because the Ivy League typically does horribly in the tournament, but Harvard did win a tournament game last year. But honestly, the real reason I root for them is because they will likely be our bosses someday soon, so go Crimson! And is it too early to ask for a raise?
4. Follow the Chinese zodiac... sort of. This is the year of the goat, but since there are no goat mascots, consider it the year of the cat. The Kentucky Wildcats are undefeated and the favorite to win it all. And, according to the Pomeroy rankings -- which are put together by people a lot smarter than me -- the Arizona Wildcats have the second easiest path to the championship. So when you are streaming the games against company policy at your cube, restrain yourself from leaping in the air and yelling "Meow!" at the top of your lungs.
5. Five seeds for some reason get upset by the 12 seeds. No sports expert can explain this -- it just happens. Pick at least one 12 seed to advance. I'm going to pick Wofford to beat Arkansas, only because I like saying Wofford.
6. Don't pick your favorite team. I don't have this problem because my Gophers once again aren't in the tournament, but if they were, I wouldn't pick them. Always pick against your team. If you're wrong and your team wins it all, you'll be thrilled that your bracket is busted! And if your team loses and your bracket wins the office pool, you'll be thrilled for the extra spending cash! It's a win-win strategy.
And six-and-a-half: Please brag about your bracket sparingly. The bracket bragger is just like the guy who will spare no details when telling you about his fantasy football team in the fall. I understand that you care about these things and it is nice that your bracket is important to you, but that really doesn't necessarily make it important to others.