Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Looking to escape March Madness NCAA Tournament Bracket Sadness? Go to Hawaii

After too many maniacal years of having my NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket busted as often as a Kardashian boyfriend I devised a new March Madness strategy this year.

I went to Hawaii.

Aloha means goodbye to tearing up my bracket and tearing the hair out of my head. Farewell, Bracketology. Hello, Fantasy Basketball.

Without a care in the world, I leisurely filled out this year’s bracket during a five-hour flight to Honolulu and then placed my tray table back in the upright and locked position. My only visual source of tournament information was the sports section from Tuesday’s USA Today with two full pages of the breakdown of each team in the four tournament regions. It was so refreshing. Hmmmmm … Utah State vs. Washington? Flight attendant, bring me another mai tai and bag of peanuts. I’m going off line for this decision.

Gone was the stress of assessment. Hours spent combing through Internet stories deducing, predicting, imploring upsets galore, sleeper teams, and dark horses. I used to sit down at the dinner table on the Monday night prior to the start of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament with the sport sections of multiple newspapers laid out like so many condiments, thumbing through page after page of printed material looking for a nugget to push my pencil up or down one line in search of the utopian of upset picks.

This, of course, after trying to watch every post-season conference tournament game to decipher which teams were truly peaking and which teams were merely cruising to the Dance and playing me for a fool. In a word I was obsessed.

This year the only NCAA basketball game I watched from start to finish all season involved the Dominican University of California Penguins women’s basketball team. I saw more of Natalie Diaz than Zion Williamson. Natalie never blew up a Nike.

So when Selection Sunday came and went, I listened intently but not intensely to the gospel of the college basketball experts – the know-it-all talking heads from Jay Bilas to Dickie V. – who watch basketball like porn. I drew my own conclusion which was: For everyone that likes a Wofford, there is somebody that likes a Seton Hall just as much. For all the paralysis by analysis in the end it’s a simple coin flip. So I vowed I was not going to flip out if the team I picked to win missed or surrendered a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

This year, it didn’t matter.  I was in Hawaii where the first-round games tipped off locally at 7 o’clock in the morning. Why stuff my butt on a condo sofa and agonize over every errant shot and stupid turnover when I could walk outside to a beach and watch the sunrise?

Are you feeling me? Life was a cocktail umbrella, not the perfect bracket.

Hence, words I did not speak in Hawaii: “Honey, can we put off going to dinner at Duke’s so I can watch Duke’s game against North Dakota State? You see nothing, absolutely nothing, keeps me from Hula Pie, not even the prospect of another 12 seed beating a five seed or someone playing to be Cinderella.

So while I drove the North Shore and walked Wakiki Beach and hung out at the Aulani Disney Resort, they played 48 basketball games in my time in the 49th state. I didn’t see Donald Duck, but I didn’t see an Oregon Duck either.

But you know what? This is the most relaxed I have ever been during March Madness and it showed. I was right about Murray State beating Marquette and UC Irvine beating Kansas State. I went 13-3 on the first day of the tournament and 14-2 over the weekend. Fourteen of the teams I picked for the Sweet 16 got there, including my Final Four.

Aloha, Hawaii, my NCAA tournament bracket bliss.  As they say there,  A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale. Dare to dance, leave shame at home.


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