There was a time when The NCAA Selection Show sent paper prices on Wall Street soaring into a two-day frenzy. Traders’ eyes glossed over and their fingers flitted furiously, jotting down the cost of a gross of Hammermill stock. International Paper flew faster than folded-up fighter jets out the window of Ms. McDougal’s 9th-grade remedial algebra class. It was Mid-March.
Brackets, baby! Brackets were here and brackets were there….brackest were indeed everywhere. Each and every place one might gaze, their eyes fell upon a group of people of any and all ages huddled together, creases of thought on their collective brows, studying matchups, committing each 12/5 upset to memory like nuclear codes. Debating that no self-respecting bracketeer could predict an all-chalk Final Four. Bemoaning their past luck….retelling the trite and true bad beat stories….reminding everyone that a 16 has never beaten a 1.
But that was then. Computers and online bracket sites rule the day. The debates are, for the most part, silenced, the ink stains of newspaper brackets are long gone, and papercuts are a thing of the past. And, sorry not sorry, Virginia, that 16/1 thing got put to bed, too.
Of all things I am and am not, a nostalgic generally falls into the “not” category. I actually enjoy the progression of technology, most of the time. I, for instance, like pay-at-the-pump, online grocery shopping and banking and bill paying, eBay and Amazon. For entertainment, I can listen to almost any music or podcast ever recorded with the simple click of a couple of buttons on a phone that’s so smart, it is labeled as thus and no one finds the moniker pretentious. Technology has ushered in an era of convenience that I, most definitely, am here for.
But occasionally, nostalgia raises its head, a turtle peeping its almost ashamed eyes out of a brown, springtime pond. It looks around, and it finds a soft spot. Then it snaps its beak and holds on for dear life. Such is the case with brackets.
I’ll admit it: I miss getting up way too early, driving out to the local convenience store, and sliding a couple of quarters into the Courier Journal slot. Ah, the metallic clank. And wouldn’t mind the once-yearly anticipation of hoping there was at least one black-and-white beauty left in that dwindling stack. Oh, I’ve never been happier to have hands covered by those aforementioned ink stains.
And don’t forget the care you had to take whilst filling out your one and only copy. A slip of a pen, a bobble, an overly aggressive gouge, and it could all be over. And, oh, those teams with long or unconventional names. Beware writing “Georgetown” or “Gonzaga.” Shorten it to “G-town” and “Zags” to make sure you don’t run over the line. And don’t get me started on IUPUI. Filling out a bracket was an art far beyond petty prognostication.
These days, a few clicks and you’re done. Accidentally click the wrong team? No worries, just click the right one. Want to enter multiple contests? Easy, just click your group and enter the password. Looking to get a gander at your buddy’s bracket? Well, no chance until the tourney starts! Them’s the rules, bucko!
It’s just not the same; it isn’t even a close. And I miss it.
[In case you are reading this, Technology, I love you. I really do. You’re almost always there for me. But I hope you understand that every now and then, even a non-nostalgic like me needs a foray into the framework of memories, and, if possible, maybe help me find a printable bracket on a free website. That’d be swell.]