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Zen and the Art of the Busted Bracket

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Oh hey there. I see you. You in the office pool who put your week's beer money on the line, hoping that this would be the year that Mizzou forgot that they've never been to the Final Four. You who gritted your teeth going all in on Duke, because even though they so often disappoint, can we really be so sure they won't repeat 2010? Or maybe you were the person who was absolutely sure that Syracuse would be the top seed upset in the round of 32. Maybe this year you tried to ride the hot hand, to find this tourney's VCU or Butler in the form of the Murray State Racers (or hell, even VCU themselves).

Yeah, I see you.

And I want you to know, I feel your pain. I really do.

I'm just like you. I stare at my entry on ESPN, knowing that my top ranking in our pool won't last when I only have 820 PPR. It's just a matter of time really. It's inevitable that I'll soon be shipping another bobblehead out west to Jon or down south to Bama Hawkeye. My entry will sink to the bottom like a too-soused Chicagoan going for a dip in the green dyed river.

But I'm here today to tell you... there is light at the end of the Busted Bracket tunnel. Gather round friends. I come bearing wisdom. You too can find peace in failure.

Okay, that long winded intro aside, I'm really just here to talk about this year's Tournament and how I'm surprisingly doing okay despite complete and utter bracket failure.

You see, I've never really been a hardcore bracket specialist. I mean sure, I'll fill out a couple every year. Usually I enter some sort of pool. Sometimes I even win a couple hundred bucks, in those years where my crazy (Heeeeelllo 2010 Butler) is just crazy enough. So I guess if you're the type who spent the last few weeks watching games out of the Patriot league and sifting through KenPom for nuggets of gold, this isn't the post for you. Failure in the face of that level of preparation is way beyond my pay grade.

But even if it's true that I haven't exactly been a bracket obsessive, I still feel the hurt of a prematurely busted entry. It's hard to be known as "that girl who writes about sports" and not get hit in the ego a bit when I'm proven terribly, terribly wrong. In front of lots of people.

It's okay, though. I'm coping. Really, I am. No, seriously.

This semester, I got some sage advice from a Federal judge. In the course of advising me on litigation strategy, he reached to March Madness and said, "Honestly, it's like college basketball. This isn't soccer, or hockey. You'll score some points. Your opponent will also score some points. It's going to go back and forth. But your job is to make sure that at the end of the day, you have more points than he does."

The beauty of that analogy is that while it's seriously applicable to real life, both in and out of the courtroom, it's also relevant to, yes, college basketball. And by extension, to the experience of watching the NCAA Tournament.

Graham touched on this recently. I love football, and I love having passionate team allegiances. There's something thrilling, though, about being in a bar with a group of strangers, all cheering on some random school that you can bet 99% of the people present had heard about two hours before. The tournament brings out the David and Goliath stories like no other sport I know. It's these little moments that make the whole thing worth it, even if your favorite school is bounced (or never makes it in the first place... *ahem*gowildcats*ahem*).

Sometimes you score points, as when your team advances, or your hated rival suffers a stinging upset.

Sometimes your opponent scores points, like when your bracket gets busted, or your favorite team suffers a stinging upset.

But at the end of the day, you just have to come out of it with more points than the other guy.

So, my friends, come with me. Put down that paper shredder. Pull your Trey Burke jersey out of the trash can.

You too can find peace and excitement in this year's tournament. Find some Cinderellas with improbably long odds to follow. Cheer against that team you love to hate. Hope for the Big Ten to show up the Big East.

Breathe. Embrace your failure. Enjoy the Madness.