Thursday, March 20, 2014

Helping My Kids Pick a Billion-Dollar Bracket

It happens every year. The descent into madness.

March Madness.

I'm old, so I've been picking a bracket every year for a long, long time. I've never won anything, or done particularly well at it, but I enjoy making the picks. (I had a roommate when I was a Mormon missionary in 1986 who correctly predicted Louisville over Duke in the finals. Had he submitted it, he could have won a Ford Fiero sportscar. It would have been a big upgrade from the Plymouth Reliant we were driving at the time. I don't think the mission president would have approved.)

After I got married, I continued making picks, and I talked The Wife into filling out a bracket, too. So, of course, for the first four years of our marriage she cleaned my clock with her brackets. Every single year her picks were better than mine, and it usually wasn't even close.

When we started having kids, we thought it would be fun to have the kids pick a bracket, too. When Roni was old enough to know her letters, we would have her pick teams based on the first letter of the school name. This led to some crazy looking brackets.

As the years have gone by, I've been able to steer the kids towards making better picks. Maybe a little too good. I'm afraid both of their brackets will be better than mine this year.

How we do it is I will tell the kids the names of the two teams matching up for a game, and ask them who will win. A few years ago I figured out that the kids will usually pick the last team that I name. For instance, if I say "Albany or Florida?" they will almost always say "Florida." So, when I give them the names of the schools, I always say the name of the school with the higher-numbered seed first, so that the kids are more likely to choose the team that is favored to win.

(A quick aside: I have a hard time knowing what people mean when they say a "higher seed" and a "lower seed." In a 1-seed vs. 16-seed matchup, which do you call the higher seed? The 1-seed is the higher ranked team, but the 16-seed is the higher numbered team. When I hear someone say something like "I like it when the high seeds advance," I'm not sure if they mean they like it when the best teams advance, or if they want a lot of upsets. I guess I'm just easily confused.)

I say the kids usually pick the team that is favored, but not always. Sometimes they'll latch onto a team that has a "fun" name to say. Or maybe a team will remind them of something else. Two years ago Roni had Murray State going to the Final Four because it put her in mind of the character Murray from Sesame Street.

Needless to say, if there were a Little Mermaid University, or Iron Man State, my kids would pick them to win it all.

A billion-dollar bracket? Doubtful.

This year, Roni picked Oklahoma in the first round because, "Oklahoma is interesting." But, she has them losing to San Diego State in the second round because Diego is a friend of Dora the Explorer.

She also picked George Washington to make it to the Final Four because, and I quote, "George Washington was the prophet." (That's a bit of a Mormon thing. Mormons call the president of their church the "prophet," so Mormon kids sometimes get confused between presidents of the church and presidents of the country.)(Of course, based on the political leanings of most Mormons, there's not much chance of a Mormon kid calling President Obama the prophet.) (Although if Romney had won the election it might have been more confusing.)

She likes Villanova, mostly because she likes saying "Villanova." She also has VCU going all the way to the Elite Eight, possibly because she likes the alphabet. In the end, Roni picked Kansas to win it all this year in part because her cousin/best friend Cami used to live in Kansas.

Meanwhile, Buzz has a few more upsets in his bracket. He has St. Joseph's winning a couple of games because he loves his dad and his dad is named Joseph. "Wofford" is more fun to say than "Michigan," so that could be a big 15-over-2 upset to look for.

Buzz likes Stephen F. Austin to win a couple of games, though I'm not sure why because he is not familiar with either Stone Cold Steve Austin, the professional wrestler or Steve Austin, the Six-Million-Dollar Man.

Buzz picked "You-lee-ville" to win a couple of games. (Louisville.)

Buzz's best answer came when I asked him who would win between San Diego State and Arizona. His answer? "Sandazona State." I asked him three times, and he kept mumbling "Sandazona State." A word of warning to Buzz's future teachers: If you give him a true/false quiz, be prepared to get this as an answer:
True? False? Sure, whichever. 

Ultimately, Buzz likes Wichita State, and he has picked them to win it all. When I asked him why he kept picking Wichita State, he said it was because he thought they were a "nice witch."

Despite some of their outlandish picks, both Buzz and Roni have some respectable Final Four teams. Buzz has Wichita State, Florida, San Diego State and Iowa State. Roni has Kansas, Duke, Arizona, and president George Washington. (The Wife has Virginia winning with Duke, Kansas and Wisconsin filling out the Final Four. And me? Florida over Wichita State, with Michigan State and Wisconsin.)

Of course, this year there is some extra incentive to pick a perfect bracket. Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans are sponsoring a contest that will give a billion dollars if someone picks a perfect bracket.

A billion dollars!!! (That's $1,000,000,000!!!) Every time anyone fills out a bracket, there's always that hope, that dream, that maybe this time I'll get every pick right. Hey, it could happen. Not likely, but it could happen. Sure, the odds are about nine-billion to one, but it is possible. ("So, you're telling me there's a chance.")

My fear? That this is the year that I get a perfect bracket. Why would I fear this? Because when I went to enter my bracket into the billion-dollar contest, I was too late. They had already closed the contest. (Yet one more reason why they call me "Slow Joe.") It would be tragic if I lost out on a billion dollars because I didn't get my bracket entered in time.


Okay, so I needn't have worried. The first game of the day was Dayton vs. Ohio State. I picked Ohio State. So, of course, Dayton won. And, with only five games in the books, my kids and The Wife all have losses as well. (The Wife correctly picked Harvard's upset of Cincinnati. Her mistake was sticking with her alma mater, BYU, over Oregon.)

Oh well, next year I'm sure that billion dollars will be ours! (Especially if the University of Cinderella or Hulk State wins it all.)