You didn’t realize basketball and March Madness were things that were still happening? Well, they in fact are, as is our ongoing Tournament Bracket Challenge Thing. Here’s the strange place in which we find ourselves.
Before this year’s tournament began, a lot of people said that this was the year of parity, when mid-majors (smaller schools with mediocre but not bad athletic programs) would have their best chance of winning — a product of the perennially really good teams being a little worse and the smaller market teams all being a little bit better. Despite that, a lot of us chose teams like Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse — schools with histories of being good at basketball to win it all (that’s why you chose them right?). But really, why?
Maybe we chose the favorites because it’s hard to imagine the little guy actually being THAT good. Because there’s no way that, even while we often hope for the underdog to prevail, he actually can. We have hope, but we’re not dummies, and we don’t want to be letdown, so we’re realistic in our expectations for what can actually happen in this relatively unfair world. So is that even hope, then — if what we believe is that there are chances for only small battles to be won by good, while in reality the real war rages on, barely affected by the little fires all around it.
Our selection of the favorites not only reflects our lack of true optimism, but also our nature to go against the grain of what intelligent data suggest we should do. Based on the track records of the teams, it was pretty clear that there was relative parity in the field. But even still, we used empirical evidence and the even more tried and true scientific process of listening to “our gut.” Even our most visceral reaction is to be scared and fearful of the unknown, to be so afraid that we avoid a path less taken. Even with data pointing to the contrary, we can’t be bring ourselves to believe.
What does all of this mean? Well, I think it’s pretty clear that we’re afraid. Afraid to believe that upsets can happen, that the common man can overthrow the powers that restrict and preclude him from dreaming, but more importantly we’re afraid of being disappointed and wrong. While we like to talk about being brave and believing in anything being possible, we know that that’s not actually true. That’s why we picked Kansas or Kentucky, because with the gun to our head, with our pride on the line, we knew that we couldn’t believe in hope, but in the past. Be safe! Toe the line. Otherwise we could be made to look like fools.
So congratulations to T. Keiser for being brave, for believing in hope and the human spirit and for topping the Awl Tournament Bracket Challenge. (Although he chose to Duke to win it all, so maybe we’re all screwed.)
Also, Mr. Hippity is the highest ranked Awl contributor, and actually was the previous week as well but that went unmentioned because I have reading comprehension issues.