I'm not going to say I've never gambled. I've played the occasional Nevada slot machine, and purchased the occasional lottery ticket while still living in a state where it was legal. And I'm not going to say I've never filled out an NCAA tournament bracket. It's one of those things you sometimes feel obliged to do, especially if you follow college basketball and happen to have a pencil close at hand.
But it's precisely because I follow college basketball -- and love it beyond all reason -- that I've come to the conclusion that filling out a bracket is contrary to the spirit of the event. I will contend to my dying breath that the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- and the first two rounds in particular -- provide the most exciting, dramatic showcase in all of sports. Unbelievable upsets and heart-stopping finishes are a regular occurrence. If you're blessed with the ability to be at home -- assuming, ITCEC, that it's voluntary -- on the opening Thursday and Friday, you could see 10 hours of awesomeness.
And here is why filling out a bracket diminishes the awesomeness: You can't possibly enjoy the drama of the event in the same way. If you pick North Carolina to win the whole shebang, you'll miss out on the thrill should an underdog pull an upset. Sure, plenty of people will have an alumni rooting interest in one or (maybe) two games, especially around these parts this year. But beyond that, you should be able to watch the games and simply appreciate the excitement on its own terms. How sad to be disappointed in the outcome of an amazing game just because you picked the loser to make the Sweet 16.
So I'll pass, thanks, on our "for entertainment purposes only" office pool, or various online incarnations. If you need a bunch of interconnected lines to make this event interesting to you, you're really missing something.