Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bracketology? Is This Really A Science?

Why are we making up all of these new words? By the way, I have always had a hot and cold relationship with the sciences. Bear with me here.

I truly believe I may have been living under a rock for the past couple of years.
Because this is the first time I've ever seen people blow up over this practice during the NCAA Tournament. That, or this is the first year that people are going absolutely bananas over it and trying it for themselves. It appears that even the most obscure of sports fans are talking about their predictions and their bracketing for this year's National Tournament. Please be honest with me, people: Did I miss the boat?

This supposed sports "science" term was coined by an ESPN analyst a few years ago, and while people have been making predictions about seeding and matches for years, it has become a massive mainstream game of Chinese checkers where people do their own research about the NCAA's hottest basketball teams and make their predictions for them. These predictions may include seeding, their sectional placement, and which team may face which in each round. It can be easy--where you just predict the team's progress in the tournament--or it can be extremely complex, where you make those bold predictions that I had mentioned above. The more and more I read about it I feel like an idiot because I still think it's a massive accomplishment that I had finally figured out the in's and out's of fantasy football and this whole practice just blows my self-discovered joy out of the water.

Where did this all come from? 
It's like people wanting to do the Harlem Shake because everyone else was doing it.

The main question that I ask about this kind of practice is this: Can this really be considered a science?
I'm not over-analyzing something for the sake of pulling it apart, but is this truly deserving of the "-ology" suffix? I'm pretty sure it does. Here's why:
1) Various forms of research are done, and a simplistic form of the scientific method is used.
2) Theories are created and tested among other schools of thought (i.e. your friends/enemies).
3) People are using their brains in search of promoting their knowledge--that is...unless if there's an anomaly dancing around (the ever so exciting upset...)

It's simple enough for most people to understand. However, could this be for you? Predicting and making bold research attempts isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea. People like me might be absolutely comfortable with doing statistics and other mathematical measures, but those same people (myself included) might be completely godawful at making predictions and daring placements. Don't get me wrong, I love puzzles and stuff, but my brain can be so far out in left field that if I were to ever do a bracket that it would look like a blue-period Picasso.

Those comments aside, this is a new spin on taking part in the exciting atmosphere that is March Madness. Like I've said before several times in this blog, there is something that is so exciting in the college sports world that can lure in any average Joe and keep the person watching until the very end. I am not a very keen NBA-watcher, but I will watch the NCAA Tournament with little complaint. The atmosphere is so much more different; the degree of fandom in this level of gameplay has a different kind of fire and can really shift the momentum and bring out some high-octane competition. When you see something like that on television, you almost want to be there yourself and feel the energy coming from the court.

This could possibly be another way for the fans to be even closer to the sport and compete with friends in their own way. C'mon people, we're animals, and it's survival of the fittest out there, regardless of whether we people are as active as the basketball players actually playing the game. To be perfectly honest, this is the one actual time of the year that I hear much more praise about college basketball than I do about the NBA, and with the ongoing Miami Heat winning streak, we could be seeing some basketball-sized fireworks in the next few weeks. With the amount of emotional investment that basketball fans all over the country are placing into this new practice of "bracketology," we could see a new revolution of sports fans, especially with the power of social media in our society.

I'm not one to start doing something like this next year, but if you're a person who is up for the challenge, then more power to you. This takes a lot of patience and smarts about each team and conference in the NCAA. You could go the easy way out and just predict paths (which is what I would most likely do) which could be a great start. If you want to get closer to the experience and separate yourself from the boys because you're a man now, give this a shot. Who knows? You could meet more friends this way. You might also learn a lot more about basketball and the art of research. I like research, it's not so bad. You could like it too.

Bracketology is pretty cool with me. I might not do this, but it doesn't mean that it's bad. Carry on, you bracketeers, and best of luck in the NCAA Tournament.


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