The odds were astronomical, but I don't know how much a quintillion really is so I didn't truly fathom the impossibility. And I followed college basketball pretty closely this year. I had a good chance of reaping the rewards. I was so sure of a billion bucks victory, I turned in my notice at work on the first day of the tournament.
Three hours later, after Dayton beat Ohio State, I called back to work. “Uh, about that notice...”
Yes, within three hours of the tournament beginning, my bracket was busted. The billion dollars was not going to happen. The first game killed me. The first game!
I was pretty careful with my picks. I did get North Dakota State over Oklahoma but I missed Mercer beating Duke. I bet Mercer's coach even picked Duke to win. When a billion dollars is on the line, you go with head over heart in picks every time.
Obviously, the bracket contest was a gimmick to garner the world's largest data base and e-mail address list. I won't get a billion dollars, but I'm soon to receive one billion e-mails about Quicken Loans and their fine products.
This year's brackets reinforced to me why sports predicting and betting is pretty rough. I used to actually bet on college football games. My brother-in-law knew a bookie and fronted the bets for me. The problem was, he'd take my winnings from college football and then lose it on pro football games Sunday. I was doing an illegal activity. What was I going to do, call the cops on him?
For one fall, I had developed a really good system for picking college games. I pored over team stats and predicted the scores of key games and then compared them to the Vegas lines. On games where I had teams winning much more than the point spreads indicated, I'd lock on them.
It got pretty intense. Once, my wife had a prayer meeting at our house with her church buddies. As they did their thing, the Florida State-Boston College game was on television. She attended a non-denominational charismatic church with members that weren't reserved about whoopin' and hollerin' in church. I grew up as a refined, shy Methodist, so that was out of my comfort zone.
However, during that prayer meeting, Florida State held Boston College on four downs within the five yard line as time ran out and covered an 8-point spread. After each play-stopping tackle by Florida State, I'd blurt out a “Yes,” or “Whoo,” or “Thank you, Lord.”
Later, one of the members told my wife he felt I was really coming around spiritually.
I quit the betting thing when, and I'm not making this up, the bookie died of a drug overdose. I realized I was becoming an expendable character in a Breaking Bad scene, got scared and bailed out quickly.
Since then, I do the customary bracket thing, and that's the extent of any sports prognostications.
And each year I swear never to fill in a bracket again after one of the teams I forecasted to go to the Final Four gets beat by some Cinderella-darling team in the first round and my bracket is mutilated. Anyone remember Northern Iowa over Kansas in 2010? Weber State over North Carolina in 1999? Santa Clara beating Arizona in 1993? Yeah, I thought so. Those things stick with you.
Three of the four Final Teams in this year's tournaments are teams I had losing earlier on. Only Florida remains. I looked at my ESPN bracket last week and discovered I was in 1,350,000th place. Whoo-hoo. It's dropped since then, I'm sure.
So, I'm laying off making any more bracket picks from now on and instead will simply enjoy the games for the sport, not the point spreads or final outcomes. Can I get a thank you, Lord for that?