TRANSLATING SPORTS: March Madness Edition with Osnes, Ivey Long, Shakespeare
For sports fans across the country, Sunday was a High Holy Day. Selection Sunday marks the beginning of the impending Sports Holy Days of Obligation, the opening weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament; colloquially known as the start of March Madness. On Sunday, 68 college basketball teams found out when and where they would play in their quest for a national championship, and a dozen or so others, that still held out hope to chase the title, had their dreams dashed when all four brackets had been announced without hearing their name. It's much like getting up early on that late April morning to watch the Tony Award Nominations and not seeing the name of your favorite show or performer (or even your own) called. Heartbreaking, right?
Well, for the 68 teams who didn't have their hearts ripped out and stomped on, they must win either six or seven games, depending on their seeding, to cut down the nets. However, for the vast majority of Americans, the only winner that truly matters is not their alma mater or their favorite team, but rather the one they have penciled in at the end of their bracket.
According to the FBI (yes the FBI), millions of Americans BET an estimated $2.5 billion each year on their brackets in countless online and office pools. So, unless you want to be the only one of your coworkers not to have a rooting interest in the largest sporting event in the country, you need to fill out a bracket, and I am here to help you.
There is no right or wrong way to fill out a bracket; often the person in the pool with the least amount of basketball knowledge wins. March Madness comes with an insane amount of "beginner's luck." So there is hope for all of you that have been too wrapped up in the latest HEDWIG rumors to tune in to SPORTSCENTER! That being said, before you fill out your bracket, you need to pick a method to selecting the winners of each game. I've put together some of the most popular methods and tried to put them in verbiage that the average theatre fan would understand.
The Laura Osnes Method
With all due respect to Carly Rae Jepsen (and Anna Kendrick, Laura Benanti, Kim Crosby, and Julie Andrews for that matter), Laura Osnes is Broadway's reigning Cinderella. But how does the erstwhile Bonnie apply to sports? In sporting terms a "Cinderella" is a team that does better than expected, and therefore is "crashing the ball." While not a single basketball announcer will mention Santino Fontana or sing a few bars of "In My Own Little Corner", many will utter tiresome clichés like "the glass slipper fits," and "the clock hasn't struck midnight," as if they were the most creative thing ever said on broadcast television.
Now, every sports fan will tell you that there will be a couple of Cinderellas that make a modest run in the tournament, but the key is picking the right ones. In the last 30 years (since the tournament expanded from 32 teams), 12th seeded teams (there are four every year) have knocked off five-seeds in the first round 35.34% of the time. For a Cinderella, that's as good of odds as you are going to get. You can count on one or two to pull off the upset this year. So, check to see which No. 12s have been hot coming into the tournament.
Also, if you can't decide who to pick in that 8/9 opening round matchup, take the No. 9 seed, because more times than not they are going to lose to the region's top-seeded team in the next round anyway, so why not pick the upset? Although No. 8 Kentucky does look fairly good in the Round of 32, but more on that later.
Some of the Cinderellas that I would suggest considering are Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, St. Joseph's, and Iowa.
That being said, the lowest seed to ever make the Final Four was a No. 11. So, don't ride the stagecoach too long, because more than likely, it will Turn back into a pumpkin sooner than you would like.
Picking Cinderellas can be fun, and when they hit, they can make you look like you knew something no one else did. However, don't outsmart yourself. There has never been a No. 1 seed who has lost to a 16 in the history of the tournament, and only six 15s have upset 2s; so stick to Cinderellas 14 and above.
The key to picking Cinderellas to find a few you like, and then stick to the favorites in the other games. If you get lucky and stumble onto the right underdogs, this will maximize your chances to make some money in your pool!
The William Ivy Long Method
The next method that is quite popular, and requires quite a bit less actual sports knowledge, is named for the 13-time Tony-nominated costume designer (and six-time winner) William Ivey Long. If you prefer KINKY BOOTS to college hoops, this method might be your best fit.
College basketball jerseys are big business. Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, and others battle to become the official outfitters of as many teams as possible; to be seen on televised games and to sell replica jerseys to fans. Therefore, each season you can see anything from new designs to retro jerseys (the #tbt of the sports world) to these nasty Zubaz inspired combos.
In this method, you compare the uniforms of the teams playing and pick the one you like best. Pretty simple, and for many, quite a bit more fun than pouring through shooting percentages and turnover differentials.
The William Shakespeare Method (a.k.a. What's In a Name)