Saturday, April 20, 2013

Taking a Chance by Jenny Gardiner

Let's talk bracketology for a minute here. Well, aside from the fact that it makes me crazy when sports-types coin annoying terms like bracketology that become imprinted into our national jargon. But that word's a done deal, so let's explore some of the psychology of March Madness picks instead.
It wouldn't surprise many who know me to learn that I suck at picking winners in sports matches. It might be because I pay little attention to sports, and am peripherally aware of athletes only if they date celebrities and I read about it in People Magazine. Not that I'm proud of that shameful truth, but there you have it. Regardless, I have long contended that choosing winners for March Madness can't be far off from the proverbial chimpanzees who throw darts at the NASDAQ page in the newspaper to determine stock picks. My belief was reinforced long ago when my husband yearned to engage our young family in March Madness in order to be able to focus on basketball games for a period of a few weeks' time without major balking from the peanut gallery. So he enlisted all of the kids to "pick" their winners, and much of the selection process involved educating the kids on which teams had which mascots, because when you're a kindergartener, it's all about the Huskies and not the Huskers, or whatever. I mean no kid is going to select a team that's about peeling corn, am I right? Incredibly, that first year, my son — who was maybe all of about six at the time — won. Seriously. He won upwards of a thousand dollars, if memory serves me (of course my memory often cuts me off these days, sadly). Now back then, we were the worst parents on the block because we refused to allow our kids to even play video games, let alone own them. Nintendo was a dirty word around our home, and no way were we going to putrefy our children's brains with that rot. (I know, you laugh now). So after Kyle won far too much money for having picked adorable mascots, he came to us with a brilliant strategy. He wanted to donate some of the money to charity (warmed the cockles of our hearts, naturally); wanted to set aside money for college (ditto); wanted to take the family out to dinner (woot!); wanted to set aside some money in the bank. And he wanted to purchase his very own Nintendo. Dagger to the soul. But how could we deny him this joy? After all, not only did he win, but also he won responsibly, with a fiscal plan. We couldn't say no or we really would have been the worst parents on the block. Suffice it to say he was elated, and had visions of future March Madness wins dancing in his head for the next umpteen years. The following year, however, and for a few NCAA playoffs thereafter, things weren't so hunky dory. If Kyle was out early in the tournament, he'd pitch a fit and mope, which wasn't particularly pleasant to deal with. Worse still, this winning-the-big-bucks thing gave him the notion of getting something for nothing, which is also not a great concept to reinforce in a child. We'd realized too late that we'd created a March Madness Monster. Eventually time tamed the wild beast and he learned to lose with dignity, but for a while there it was not terribly joyful when his teams went down. Over the past few years, my middle daughter has had a tendency to be in the running for much of the tournament, gets her hopes elevated far too high with visions of early college loan paybacks, only to have them dashed dramatically by some lame team that chokes big time. She's devised a whole superstitious nature around this, much like the major league pitcher who won't wash his underwear or shave his beard while in the playoffs. She's convinced that if she watches the game, her team will invariably lose. This doesn't trouble me terribly, because it's that many less basketball games that are on in our house. (I mean really, after thirty or forty in a few-week period, it gets old). But it bears a hint of great irony around it, as now my husband can't watch the games live if she's in the house. Which kills the whole point of originally getting the family involved in the first place. Best laid plans… Now I, on the other hand, am a gargantuan loser with March Madness. Actually one year I think I came in second or third place and won a decent pot of money, but it only served to embitter me for the years in which I lost and lost big (every year since for probably two decades), and reinforces my ambivalence about the tournament (go ahead, call me a sore loser). So I can relate to my kids. This year, I named one of my selections "Mascot Crapshoot", harkening back to the family mascot picks of yore. I decided to choose teams based purely on their team emblem. I figured if it worked for lesser primates…Well, newsflash: you don't pick a bottom-seeded team just because you like Tigers, over a number one seed, regardless of your distaste for Cardinals. Teams just don't win based on cute mascots, darn it! I had the shameful distinction of being bottom-ranked after the first round finished up. Which I think should get some sort of booby prize, don't you agree? I for one am glad that March Madness has given way to April showers (although maybe we can bypass the showers altogether and just have pleasant spring weather). As much fun as the promise of March Madness offers us all during the tail end of our winter doldrums, the reality of it isn't much better than a late-season blizzard, that leaves us yearning to get away from it all. Stat. Like those loser Tigers she bet on, Jenny Gardiner is licking her March Madness wounds and gambling on a more reliable income writing books. You can find her and her books at
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street
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Mary Kirkland said...

I really love your books, they are down to earth, funny and great reads.

Pat Cochran said...

March Madness is not a favorite in my home.
Honey doesn't watch basketball and I get
miffed with the powers that be because I
miss several days of my soaps! Needless
to say, we have very little knowledge of
the "science" of bracketology!

Pat C.

Pat Cochran said...

Forgot to say that I still laugh when I see
the cover of "Naked Main On Main Street"!!

Pat C.