in the mountains of march madness


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The NCAA Tournament is upon us: March Madness, that time of year described alternately as America’s Great Gambling Holiday or America’s Second-Favorite Sporting Even Next To The Superbowl. Over the next few weeks, if you’re paying attention, you will encounter dozens of paeans to, pseudophilosophical essays about, and analyses of work hours wasted due to the Field of 64.

As such, here’s the Evil’s:

Evil entered his very first March Madness Pool during his freshman year of college, competing against the guys in the dorm. After the opening round, Evil had surged ahead thanks to his picking a stunning upset on the grounds that he really liked the name of the much-lower-seeded school. (Sadly, Evil can’t recall the name of said school, but it probably hailed from the Missouri Valley or the Patriot League or some other microconference.)

Evil’s mistake? He cheerfully admitted he had absolutely nothing, you know, factual, on which to base his pick of Goofyname State. And verily did the scorn rain down upon the Evil, scorn he couldn’t understand. It wasn’t as if any of the guys in the dorm watched college hoops to a state of exhaustion; Evil would bet that he watched at least as many NCAA games as most of his competitors. We were 18, we were guys, of course we watched sports—or at least had sports on as the background noise in our dorm rooms. The fact that Evil’s dormies failed to pick Goofyname State didn’t indicate a deeper grasp on their part of the 1995 basketball season. In all probability it just meant the random upsets they’d picked hadn’t panned out.

Of course, the real lesson the then-National Naïvil had failed to learn was the one about persona-reinvention. Freshman year of college is most people’s first opportunity to totally flush their past lives down the toilet and emerge as something glistening and new. Yet somehow Evil missed that until a year later, when he learned the truth about one of his new best friends: far from having always been the long-haired, never-showering, Velvet-Underground-adherent Evil knew, said friend had been a preppy jock in high school. A starting wide receiver on his football team!

Upon learning that, Evil recognized the true nature of the scorn he’d suffered for winning the opening round of the Tournament bracket. Beneath the other guys’ veneer of contempt was the fear that, because of this dumbass, their own sporting ignorance would be exposed. Evil was the drunk trying to pluck a champagne flute from the bottom of one of those pyramid fountains, threatening to send the whole thing crashing down. The scorn wasn’t about punishing Evil, but about keeping him in line lest he expose them and ruin their own personality reboots.

This all begs one question: had Evil been more conscious of the opportunity, what new identity would he have chosen? Über-jock? Ketchup-fortune Heir? Slumming Eurotrash? Sadly, we’ll never know.


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