Community of Madness – Round Deux

Recap | Welcome to March Sadness!

Alex: Whenever any sports enthusiast is asked to explain what makes March Madness so great, they invariably go all misty eyed and say something like, “The kids just want it so bad! The emotion is all right there!” and “It’s single game elimination, anyone can beat anyone! Upsets baby!”

Of course this is all correct. And it also happens to be why I have sworn off March Madness for the rest of my life.

You may look at my bracket and see a mess of incorrect picks and general incompetence. You might say, “Boy, Alex really blew it.” Well, let me tell you what my bracket really is. IT IS A GRAVEYARD OF BROKEN HOPES AND DREAMS.

You see, what people fail to mention while they wax on rhapsodically about the “The Big Dance” is that it’s not just the emotions of the players that live perilously close to the surface. As sad as it is, the emotional well being of entire states, and certain ex-pats, are at stake when teams take the floor. So when my dear dear Purdue lost to VCU this weekend, I wasn’t upset because my bracket was summarily incinerated. I inconsolable because JaJuan, E’Twuan, and Robbie (the Big 3) are going to graduate without a true run at the championship, which I’m not alone in thinking they have the talent to earn. These are young men whom I’ve never met, I’ve never seen play in person, and who live in a state and country I’ve moved away from. But in March, none of that mattered. And on Sunday, I had a broken heart.

Luckily, my frenemesis John Horn is a man that understands this kind of anguish. Which, I imagine, is why he sent me a text message immediately after the game that read: “Suck it Trebek! HAHAHAHAHAHAH!” Exactly the kind of tact you’d expect from the kind of man who’d put Notre Dame in the championship game. Revolting.

John: Everything is over. And I couldn’t agree more with The Great Alex Grant. I hate Canada so much. I had a lot riding on Gonzaga, Texas and Syracuse and their Canadian players. What I should’ve realized is that Canadians can’t play basketball and that Steve Nash is actually a robot from the future sent back in time to defend John Connor.

So, yesterday there I sat on the bus I was listening to The BS Report with Bill Simmons when I realized that Alex and I are actually total geniuses. I listened to Billy parade out expert after expert after expert. From Vegas “sharps” to NFL, NBA and NCAA organizers, gamblers and ex-players, the podcast had it all. And, you know what, all of Mr. Simmons’s pro-panelists made wrong picks, too. Some of them event made more wrong ones than ours. I mean, at least Alex and I didn’t have Indiana State beating Syracuse, Notre Dame in the Final or Purdue winning it al- oh…we had some of those, eh?

Well, my UBC Mens Tier 1 Recreation League semi-final game is tomorrow night. I’m going to put a lot of effort into that game. You know, one that I can actually play and affect change in. Yeah. A game like that, not the clusterfunk that we just experienced in the March Madness tourney.

Moving on…

Predictions | John & Alex Don’t Care

Alex: As I said, March Madness is now dead to me, so I have no interest in making any further predictions and therein further damaging my already deeply bruised pride. HOWEVER, since the Gumboot agreed to my handsome demands (I’m being paid in handsomeness by the Editors, who have that commodity in spades) I suppose I should honor the terms of that contract and make some GD picks.

Let’s see, who’s left…

/Consults bracket

//Begins uncontrollably weeping for the 30th time

Here’s my revised Final Four: UNC, Kansas, Duke, and Wisconsin. And I think Kansas has the best shot to win it all. Just for comedy’s sake, I should say that my bracket has 400 points, out of a possible 600. Sigh.

John: I predict that Ohio State will do an awesome job in the rest of the tournament. Also, what’s a Buckeye? And, even though the Longhorns are out of the tournament, I’m pretty sure that Texas is still going to beat Duke in the Sweet 16. I know, I know, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a ballsy prediction. But that’s what I think. Wait. It’s what I know.

Also, I think that Kansas will be in the final after beating the crap out of whoever the winner of Southeast Bracket Ridiculousness 2011 happens to be. My Final Four: Ohio State, SDSU, Kansas, Wiscounsin.

[INSERT TRASH TALK HERE]

Alex: If I still cared about March Madness, this is the area where I’d point out that Mr. Horn’s picking abilities have left him with exactly three of his Elite Eight teams still eligible, and that’s if everything goes according to this crazy like a fox plans. Sure, he’s likely been puffing himself up like a Canadian bullfrog about that Richmond pick, but let’s not overlook his Southeast Bracket. Apparently, the Southeast is where a high pressure system of erroneous met with a low pressure system of incorrectness, and it created a swirling tornado of just plain wrong which destroyed everything in its path. But that’s what happens when you rely on ole Kalin Lucas and his creaky ankles. Too bad I’m done with March Madness, and won’t mention any of this.

John: Alex Grant is a nice man with a beard – not a mustache – who I am happy to call my friend. He and I will be getting married soon so that I can become an American (sorry Robin) because Canada and it’s players and the American college teams that they play on led me astray and are hereby and henceforth dead to me. Does my decision to marry Alex make sense? Am I married to someone named Michelle right now? Well, these are all questions for Homeland Security and, probably, Robin to figure out. In the meantime, we’re both too hurt to jab each other with anything other than happy chicken wings and even happier steak fajitas and, yes, a hug or two as well.

Alex, what say we write about gardening or Dave Eggers or good wine next week?

Robin’s Chitter Chatter

Robin: Don’t listen to a word of what Alex says about “Being done with March Madness.” After he hysterically cried it all out on Sunday, he whimpered, “Is there another game on? I want to watch.” You can take the skinny white kid out of Indiana, but you can’t take the basketball out of him. PS: I’m beating everyone. Do I care? No.

Grant + Horn = A Community of Madness (Final Chapter)

Here is the final chapter from the Daily Gumboot’s Alex Grant and John Horn, who have been engaging in a rip-roaring back-and-forth discussion of one of the most interesting, exciting and unpredictable community-experiences in all of sports. It’s called March Madness, and you couldn’t have had two better guides to help you dribble, cut, post-up, and dunk your way through an event that is so much more than just a basketball tournament. We hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves. We sure have!

If you missed the first two posts, check out The Introduction and Round 1 today!

ROUND 2 RE-CAP | WE SUCK!

ALEX: Hey John, at this point don’t you think we better let our dear readers in on the little joke we’ve been playing the whole time? What? You’re too nervous? Okay, I’ll tell them.

WE ACTUALLY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BASKETBALL AND WE WANT TO DESTROY THE GAME WITH HORRIBLE PREDICTIONS AND MINDLESS BLATHER!!!! MUHAHAHAHA!!!

And our evil plot would have succeeded had I not been hopelessly seduced by the beautiful possibilities of the empty bracket and tried to chart a course based on logic and rational thought rather than malicious intent and lunacy. Always a terrible strategy. My girlfriend took the latter approach and ended up trouncing me in another pool. She treated this victory flippantly by saying, “Yeah, but don’t you finish last every year?” Um…NO!

Sigh. I remember two weeks ago smugly thinking that the only thing that could tarnish my bracket was if Kentucky beat Ohio State by 7 points instead of 9. Now, surveying the wreckage, I can only blame…Northern Iowa and the cursed Vegas oddsmakers. (But really, I think this year’s tourney has been great. High drama, lots of plucky underdogs, screaming broadcasters. However, every good thing about March will be ruined if Duke wins the championship.)

JOHN: Sure, I’m now ranked 5,503rd in my Sportsnet.ca online pool/community, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have a cha- forget it; I feel stupid trying to write that line. It’s over, my friends. My bracket isn’t just broken, it’s been pulverized into an unrecognizable smudging of blue and red lines that represent the potential of once-promising teams to make it to the pinnacle of the best darn sporting event this side of the World Cup of Soccer/Football.

One of the dark sides of March Madness certainly presents itself when you are no longer part of the bracket-community; I possess no more conversational currency with which to engage the folks who picked one or all of Michigan State, West Virginia, Duke, or Butler. They’re outta my league. Now there are many quiet college campuses out there, silenced by crushing defeat earlier than expected or because their journey deep into the tournament finally ran out of gas. And such is the beauty of sport like this: only one team is truly happy at the end of the year. Me? No, I’m not happy.

The Butler did it! Mostly, I blame myself for this mess. But mostly, I blame the Butler Bulldogs and their improbable run. I’ve been getting a ton of flak from the mustache-lobby – not to mention the butler-lobby and the mustached-butler-lobby – for my comments towards Alex and Butler, but I regret nothing. The Madness is all about shouting semi-reprehensible, possibly-offensive comments to players, referees, opposing fans, players’ families, and, perhaps, kidnapping a mascot or two when things don’t go your way. Now, being out of the competition means that my Western, self-indulgent narcissism is at odds with my Generation Y attention deficit disorder, which are trying to reconci- hey, does anyone wanna turn of the TV and go ride bikes?

THE PREDICTIONS | FINAL FOUR

JOHN: I’m not going to change a thing here. Butler isn’t getting past Michigan State, which is, quite possibly, the gutsiest team in March Madness history. Through blown achilleses (is this a word?), staggering expectations, unprecedented odds, and Northern Iowa, MSU has thrown together everything from stifling defense to last second shots to pull together a run that is truly one for the ages. They will destroy Butler by at least 30 points en route to being defeated by Duke in the Final. Duke will get to said Final by shooting the lights out against the mountain men of West Virginia, who, incidentally, will need to change their team name from “Mountaineers” to “Flattened Hellscape-eers” after the coal mining companies level the once idyllic state in order to find delicious, delicious dusty black fuel.

So there it is. Butler, stumbling under the pressure of playing at home, will finally falter! And it’s about time. Also, Alex Grant is clearly making it into the Final Four of life, which, I gotta say, is totally impressive and a true testament to the young man’s glorious character.

ALEX: I obviously need to disagree with everything John has said (except for that last sentence) so that there is a modicum of intrigue and we can salvage some bragging rights from this whole damn debacle.

My Predictions:

1) BUTLER WINS IT ALL. INDIANA ENJOYS A RENAISSANCE. MEN AROUND THE WORLD GROW BUTLERESQUE MUSTACHES IN A GLORIOUS CELEBRATION.

2) Back in Vancouver, John Horn rocks and hugs himself whilst weeping and cursing his mousy beard patches.

3) At the opening tip versus West Virginia, every Duke player finally tips over the precipice and falls into a stupor of haughty entitlement rendering them totally useless. Dukies can only buff their nails and laugh like priggish nobles while the Mountaineers throw down monster tomahawk jams.

All these things will come to pass. Butler 92 – WVU 90 (2OT)

Here are our stupid brackets…

Final Score (out of a possible 160 points):

John–54 Points

Alex–48 Points

Dreadful.

[INSERT TRASH TALK HERE]

JOHN: Sir, it has been an honour and a pleasure to jibba-jab with you over the past three weeks. You are a scholar and a gentleman and next year’s March Madness will not come soon enough. In the meantime, to practice, I suggest that we begin putting more “things” into competitions with a 64-seed bracket. Whether it’s friends, animals, gods and deities, historical figures, mobsters (real and fictional), world leaders, cartoon characters, superheroes, food, or – you guessed it – types-of-mustaches, I think that engaging in different kinds of 64-thing predictions will help hone our skills for next years tournament. What say you?

ALEX: John, I gotta say that my biggest complaint about this whole March Madness conversation we’ve had—other than being snubbed for co-authorship—is the civility and decency in our trashtalking section. Where are the attacks on country and kin?? Why is our admiration for one another so blatantly apparent?!?! That’s not the way this is supposed to work! This was the space to spill tears and draw blood, and damn your Canadian eyes, you refused to take it there. And while you may have beat me in our race to the bottom bracket, let’s go double or nothing with a game that you should know plenty about, eh? FROZEN FOUR!!!

Grant + Horn = A Community of Madness (Round 2)

For the next two Wednesdays, the Daily Gumboot’s Alex Grant and John Horn will engage in a rip-roaring back-and-forth discussion of one of the most interesting, exciting and unpredictable community-experiences in all of sports. It’s called March Madness, and you couldn’t have two better guides to help you dribble, cut, post-up, and dunk your way through an event that is so much more than just a basketball tournament.

ROUND ONE RE-CAP | “THIS IS THE CRAZIEST TOURNEY EVER!!!”

ALEX: Well, this year obviously hasn’t been pretty for my bracket, and I couldn’t be happier about that. So what if I picked Villanova to make it to the Final Four?? You think I wasn’t happily yelping like a baby in a manger when St. Mary’s pulled off its upset? Everyone LOVES upsets. You can’t help it. The seeding is completely arbitrary each year (and possibly rigged??), but it still feels like Theseus slaying the Minotaur whenever a 12 beats a 5.

Also, I’ve realized this year that there is no other tournament on Earth that involves so many tears. Seriously, after each game you’re promised to see at least a few eyes get dusty. Sometimes whole teams and sections of the arena are beside themselves. And those tears either shine like immortal glowing joy or taste of the bitterest sadness. It’s another poignant example of how young these players are, how hard they’re playing, and how fleeting and capricious victory is.

So, although we’re really all winners in March, there needs to be some way for me to prove my basketball prowess and claim gloating rights over Sir Bricksalot aka John Horn. After consulting my stable of ESPN brackets (one of which is in the 99th percentile, I don’t mind telling you) I came up with what I see as a fair scoring system for this humble wit-match.

1 point awarded for each correct 1st round pick, 2 points for an accurate 2nd round prediction, 4 points for the 3rd round, 8 points for the 4th, and 16 for the 5th, and 32 for the final.

By my summing, after the first two rounds the score reads: Mr. Basketball – 40, Grizzly Man – 42.

JOHN: Everyone always says this tournament is the craziest, most upset-laden tourney in the history of March Madness. For the record, the 2010 tourney might be the craziest – who do you think you are, Cornell?!

Sure, I might be down two Final Four teams and ranked 3,942nd in my Sportsnet.ca fantasy pool, but there’s still a lot of fight left in me – after all, I am beating “Mr. Basketball” in this little competition! Speaking of the first two rounds, well, they had everything! A number one seed, Kansas, was ousted – sorry, Mr. Obama. And some 10, 11 and 12 seeds will be playing in the Sweet 16. There were last second clutch shots, timely defensive plays and some stellar individual performances. There were mistakes, too. And, for the record, I think it’s important for all the coaches out there to always blame themselves for such mistakes, not their 18 year old point guard who thought it would be a good idea to give the ball to the other team with 11 seconds left in the game when you’re down by one point. That’s right coach, that play was your fault. Why? Well, because 18 is too young to be berated in front of tens of millions of people who may or may not have just lost tens of thousands of dollars. The kid feels bad enough.

But what does this all mean for the communities out there?! I’ll tell you what it means. It means that nearly $4 billion of American productivity will be lost by Friday, March 26. Some communities are struggling while others are distracting and attracting once focused students from their campuses and co-workers from their break rooms. Because, folks, that’s what the Madness does – it consumes us all like a tipsy bear engulfing a rebound amidst a gaggle of hairy, intoxicated, wig-wearing Canadians. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but madness never has to…

THE PREDICTIONS | SWEET 16 & ELITE 8

ALEX: Standout moments from last weekend that pop to mind are: Ali Farokhmanesh’s astonishing cold-blooded dagger that ushered No. 1 Kansas into the grave; Michigan State’s dramatic last-second win over Maryland after their star point guard’s Achilles tendon exploded; and of course, Chris Kramer’s bullish move to the basket to put Purdue past Texas A&M and into the Sweet 16.

I think the best games of the next two rounds are going to be N. Iowa beating a staggering MSU squad and Xavier matching up nicely with Kansas State and ultimately triumphing. Also although my bracket hopes otherwise, I believe in my heart that Baylor vs. Duke is going to be a great Elite Eight matchup. Final Four? ‘Cuse, Ohio State, Kentucky, Baylor (Purdue!).

JOHN: Sure, Alex has most of his Final Four teams left. Sure, he’s “smarter” and “better looking” than me. But that doesn’t mean I won’t pull out a spectacular victory in our mini-competition. Washington will upset West Virginia. Because they have to. It’s destiny. Alex, your blinded loyalty to your hometown school has inspired me.  Duke will beat Purdue (but the Boilermakers will try really, really hard). Final Four = Syracuse, Kentucky, Ohio State, and, what the heck, St. Mary’s.

[INSERT TRASH TALK HERE]

JOHN: Mr. Grant. I haven’t yet decided if you are a genius or a horseshoe-wearing, undercover leprechaun who went to Purdue instead of Notre Dame. Fact is, people with mustaches have something to hide, so I’m going to go with undercover leprechaun because, first, it’s way funnier and, second, you were very, very lucky last weekend. Now. About the “Butler” comment from the last post. Congrats on making it into the third round in the tournament of life. I’m pretty sure it ends here for you, my sworn enemy who I am horribly jealous of my friend.

ALEX: As for your leprechaun commentary, well, I had prepared a whole section about the inscrutable ways of beginner’s luck and how your picks were the happy result of benevolent gods…but judging from the carnage on your picks page, it seems like I don’t need that argument after all. (I’ll save it instead for my lovely yet flatfooted girlfriend, whose bracket is largely immaculate). It’s a rare man indeed who thumbs his nose at the luck gods and instead plunges headlong into brutal thrashings, but hey, who am I to question your ways? ‘Can’t wait for these next few rounds.

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Grant + Horn = A Community of Madness

For the next three Wednesdays, the Daily Gumboot’s Alex Grant and John Horn will engage in a rip-roaring back-and-forth discussion of one of the most interesting, exciting and unpredictable community-experiences in all of sports. It’s called March Madness, and you couldn’t have two better guides to help you dribble, cut, post-up, and dunk your way through an event that is so much more than just a basketball tournament.

MARCH MADNESS | THE OVERVIEW (FOR KURT)

ALEX: Hello readers and Welcome to the Thunderdome! If you’re unfamiliar with the men’s college basketball tournament dubbed March Madness, I’m overjoyed to introduce the best sporting event on Earth. If you’ve never filled out a bracket before, I’m practically hysterical with excitement to share this decision-making tool which is probably the most just and egalitarian system ever devised by man. After reading this article, you can look forward to implementing bracketology to solve all life’s nagging questions, including Which Prime Minister Was the Sexiest? and Supreme Sandwich Challenge! and Whose Gumboot Articles Use the Most Unnecessary Capital Letters?

However, as John will mention, not everyone – especially Kurt Heinrich – is an expert in everything, so the rudimentary fundamentals of the game mustn’t be overlooked. For instance, you may not have been aware that there are a few subtle differences between the US and Canadian versions of basketball:

1) Unlike their northern brothers, Americans rarely play the game drunk. This is largely due to the fact that in the early days of Canadian basketball, human players were hard to come by, and so the centre position was often played by wild bears. The drinking was required to steel the nerves, and deal with the fact that at least one power forward would likely be torn to shreds. Drinking in the American game happens primarily at the professional level, and for entirely different reasons. Shocking, I know.

2) You may have noticed that Americans play with an inflatable rubber ball instead of an old curling stone painted orange. Although it took me a while to figure out, I think I finally uncovered the root of this confusion. American players occasionally refer to a basketball as “the rock,” but that’s merely a bit of “slang” — a phenomenon which I will explain to all Canadians in a later post. Sure, this fancy equipment is more expensive and harder to come by, but it makes shooting 3’s a smidge easier and also prolongs the integrity of the hardwood.

3) This hardly bears mentioning (settle down! “bears” is just a figure of speech!) but over the decades, American basketball has been infused with the urban style of the nation’s inner-city asphalt parks and hard hitting pickup games. For this reason, powdered wigs are no longer considered necessary decorum for coaches and referees. Just another small difference you may notice.

Even with these small cross-border discrepancies, March Madness is accessible for everyone, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a fresh perspective from North of the 49th. Go Sport!

JOHN: Why is this section especially for the DG’s Editor-in-Controversy, Kurt Heinrich? Well, he asked us to make this story about March Madness – the NCAA Men’s Championship Basketball Tournament – “approachable” to non-sports enthusiasts. It’s weird, I know. Why do so many Canadians go mad for an American college basketball tournament? The reasons are simple and straightforward:

1) There are 64 teams that begin the tournament – only one team can win, and the games are single-elimination…win and you keep playing, lose and you go home! The narrative unfolds over three weekends and, well, anything can happen…sort of. The top ranked schools, in the end, usually make up the Final Four teams in the tourney, but each and every year a team that nobody’s ever heard of does their best to personify the Horatio Alger myth of the American Dream by going deep into the tournament. This invariably happens because of amazing individual performances, last second heroics and, possibly, mafia-related point shaving…but let’s focus on the good stuff!

2) Amateur athletes work hard – like, really hard – and, since the average age of the players in the tournament is 20, well, mistakes are made because of the pressure. This pressure also reveals character in a way that just doesn’t happen in professional sports. Finally, some of these amateur athletes have really, really funny/amazing names. Check back about this thread as the tournament unfolds.

3) Community. Regions, schools, people, mascots, coaches, players, and whole entire communities get together to celebrate this event. More than that, a worldwide online community of sports enthusiasts, gamblers and enthusiastic sports gamblers has developed as a result of March Madness. People pick their winners based on “strategy” and “research” as well as uniform colours, coolness of school mascots, and “funniness” of a school’s name.

    Sure, I feel pangs of guilt for not supporting Canadian basketball’s eight-team CIS championship tournament, but, like my high school hoops coach always said, “if you want to learn how to be great, play against the Americans.” He also was known to say, “these rocks are way too heavy and Jimmy keeps getting scratched by the bear, which is totally messin’ up his wig!”

    Moving on…

    THE PREDICTIONS | ROUNDS 1 & 2

    ALEX: One of the reasons I love college basketball is that everyone has hometown loyalties that make them blind to the logical facts and invariably destroy their brackets. My loyalty lies with Purdue University, where I grew up. Although Purdue lost one of their best players with 3 games to go due to injury (let’s all take a moment of silence for Robbie Hummel’s deceased ACL……okay, thank you) I can’t quit them, and have them making a highly improbable push through to the Sweet Sixteen in the South Region. Other teams to keep an eye on: UTEP and Minnesota in the West, Ohio St. to make a deep run in the Midwest, and New Mexico surprises WVU in the East. I see Duke going down early. A man can hope.

    JOHN: By Sunday night, all the Number 1 and 2 seeds will have advanced. That’s where normalcy ends, folks. This is a tournament with weak top seeds – I mean, perennial contenders UNC and UCLA aren’t even part of the dance – so I’ve predicted a lot of upsets in the first two rounds. Look for Washington, Cornell, Siena, Minnesota, and Murray State to advance to the regional semi-final.

    John's Picks for 2010

    [INSERT TRASH TALK HERE]

    JOHN: Alex, if you were in a 64 person tournament of life you would be Butler. Meaning you’d make it into the second round and that’s it. Also because your mustache makes you kinda sorta look like a butler. But, like, one from the 1970s. ZING!

    ALEX: Mr. Horn, I understand that you think you may have an advantage in our little tête-à-tête because you played “competitive basketball.” Well, your background credentials are certainly no better than mine: a white male raised in Indiana. I have an uncanny spider sense when it comes to March, and some have called me the Walter Cronkite of basketball. That is to say, I’m an authority, mustache and all.

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