After my normal routine this morning of getting ready for work, I checked my email from my handy-dandy Smartphone. There, in my inbox, was a letter from an old friend. He used to send these through the mail; you know, the old-fashioned way. He’s gotten more technologically savvy over the years though so I give him credit for that. He’s also packed on a few this year, if you know what I mean.
Actually, you probably don’t know what I mean because it’s not a person that I am referring to. This old friend, whom I’ve spent many a month of March with, is a simple piece of paper. He shows up this time each year in my newspaper, and more recently in my inbox, and even as I have aged, I remain giddy with anticipation of his arrival. He is the NCAA Tournament Bracket, though considering our close relationship; he doesn’t mind that I refer to him as “the bane of my existence” and other such terms of endearment.
Below is the letter he sent, along with a recent picture.
Good day to you old friend. It’s been awhile, about a year I guess right? Hope all is well. I heard you had a son since last we saw each other. Mazal Tov! I’m sure he’ll grow up to love/hate me as well one day.
I’m sure you heard I’ve changed a bit over the course of this year. I’m not exactly proud of the picture below. I planned to slim down a bit this year but the holiday weight just won’t go away, which is why I was forced to expand to a size 68 from a 64. I’m not looking for your pity though, that’s not the reason for this letter. I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed these few weeks we spend together each year.
I know we’ve had our ups and downs over the years. Remember the Arkansas win over Duke in ’94? I got you extra credit in your 7th grade Math class with that game. Mr. Harrison hated Duke almost as much as you do. Of course there were the Coppin St. in ’97 and Hampton in ’01 debacles. You know I like to throw in a monkey wrench every now and then, so I don’t feel terribly bad about those “bracket busters”. I do, however, regret hurting you the way I did with that Duke/Maryland game in the Final Four in 2001. It felt like a knife cutting into me as you drew that black line across your beloved Terps that night. I do hope I made up for it the following year however, when I helped Maryland to its first ever National Championship. I believe we both shed a tear when Gary held up that trophy.
Let’s not forget all the players I’ve introduced you to over the years as well. Players you had never heard of who, over the course of one long weekend, became heroes. There was Bryce Drew from Valparaiso and Kevin Pittsnogle of West Virginia. Let’s not forget Omar Samham of St. Mary’s and Ali Farokhmanesh of Northern Iowa. I made many of these young men famous as the catalysts of teams that proved to be giant killers in this tournament.
I want you to know that I have never been offended by some of the names you’ve called me in the past. I won’t repeat them here as it’s all water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned, but yes, I know I can be a “son-of -a-female dog” sometimes. Just know that I mirror your emotions game in and game out. I beam with pride along with you as a correctly picked upset goes final. I feel your pain as a team you were sure was destined for the Final Four is ousted in Round 1.
After the many years we’ve spent together, I feel I know you pretty well. I know about your knee-jerk reactions and I prepare myself to be crumpled, un-crumpled, and crumpled again. It’s ok, it’s part of the job. Don’t change; I wouldn’t want it any other way. I also want to take this time to apologize for the money I’ve lost you over the years. While I do control the madness like pawns on a chess board, I will not accept sole blame for your losses. You know me as well as I know you so my unpredictability should come as no surprise. If you want to continue to bet your hard-earned money on me, I’ll do my best to help you along but you know the drill.
As far as this year goes, I look forward to being filled out several times. I’m sure you’ll make changes to my lines dozens of times between now and Thursday which is why I’ve come to you in electronic form. You may not realize it but erasers begin to burn after 4 or 5 “adjustments”.
In closing, I hope you will accept my sincere apologies for leaving your Terps out of the field this year. It’s nothing personal, strictly business. As a true fan of the game, I believe you hold no ill will towards me for this, as your boys simply weren’t good enough this year. I agree with you though that it is a travesty that they were not invited to the NIT. I will be sure to have a talk with my idiot cousin about this glaring snub. For my part, I hope to see them back on my line next year. With that, I bid you adieu and wish you nothing but the best of luck as you make your selections this year. I will do my best, as always, to do right by you but know this; they don’t call me March Madness for nothing!