Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Five stages of bracket death

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who died last August 24, was a psychiatrist who once came up with a novel and easily-memorized idea concerning mortality.
When someone is dying, the bereaved go through five distinct phases of coping, she theorized. Beginning with denial and ultimately ending with acceptance, she noted the process is a psychological way of coping with loss.
After watching my NCAA brackets waste away to nothing, I have discovered Kubler-Ross' five stages of dying pertain not just to loved ones, but also to the stark realization that no, you aren't going to begin a second career as a bookmaker in Vegas.
Some of us just have a hard time letting go, but as Kubler-Ross' theory states, we are bound to in the end. That $10 entry fee isn't coming back.

1. Denial.
I went 23-9 in the first round. Sure, it was worse than my 26-6 first round record last year, but my bracket pool at work, like most, is weighted toward the big games at the end. My entire Final Four was still intact heading into the round of 32. No worries.

2. Anger.
What happened, Georgia Tech? You had my back last year. You surprised everybody outside Atlanta and made it to the Final Four. Now, you are telling me you got bounced by Louisville? A Conference USA school? Do you even want to have a basketball program anymore, or are you too busy fawning over your baseball team in March to care about hoops?
Well, at least I still have Duke, North Carolina and Oklahoma State alive. They'll get to St. Louis. They won't let me down, unlike you ... you ... Rambling Wrecks.
Yellow Jackets. Honestly, who makes their school mascot an insect?

3. Bargaining.
Oh, please, please, John Lucas Jr. Make that prayer from the baseline go in. Don't let your Oklahoma State squad lose to Arizona! Come on, you made it to the Final Four last year, too. I picked your school over Arizona because you are quality. You are the salt-of-the-Earth school that gave us Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. Arizona is the Jessica Simpson of schools. Hot, blond, but almost always disappointing once you see them in action. At least when I pick them to go far.
You are consistent, Oklahoma State. Don't let me down.
Damn it, Lucas! Why do you fail me? I sat through the better part of two seasons watching your father run the Cleveland Cavaliers into the ground, and this is how you repay me.
Oh, well. I have Duke and North Carolina left. Two mainstays of the Final Four. Duke's going to win it all.

4. Depression.
Duke's not going to win it all. They didn't even put up a fight against Michigan State.
The Big Ten has three teams in the Elite Eight. Go on, laugh it up. I bad-mouthed the Big Ten, called them a lousy basketball conference that, save for Illinois, spent most of the winter beating up on their own mediocre conference-mates.
I was wrong. Napoleon-invading-Russia-just-before-winter wrong. The "big dance" now involves an entire conference doing the cha-cha all over my brackets.
The stink of losing is on me. I wash, and wash, but it won't come off. I am a bracket leper. Every day at work, it's "man, you might finish in last place!"
I try to laugh along with them, but my sense of humor is severely atrophied.

5. Acceptance.
My situation is hopeless. I took it on the chin this year, and nothing is going to change that. So what else can I do but smile, take a deep breath ... and point and laugh at the increasing number of people who will also be in my situation by the end of the weekend.
Ha ha, those of you who picked Michigan State, North Carolina, Illinois or Louisville to win it all! The majority of you will be tearing up your brackets by Monday night, too!
The big difference is, I'll already have come to terms with the suckification of my brackets. You all will still have go through the five stages.
And if your team does indeed win the whole thing on Monday night, well ... I , uh, really don't have a comeback for that. Congratulations. Buy your friends a round of beer.

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