March Madness and the Bracket of Integrity

we have rules here

In my mind, there are two types of people in the world: those who use the same picks for every March Madness bracket they fill out and those who change their picks in every March Madness bracket they fill out.

Let me know if you’ve heard something similar before: “Oh man, in this one bracket I filled out I totally picked both of those upsets!” or “I had six of the eight Elite Eight teams and three of the four Final Four teams in the seventh bracket I filled out!”

If the above statements do not fill you with irrational rage you may want to quit reading. For those of you that nodded your head while making a list of names of your friends who say these types of things I say “welcome, my people.” We are united in our belief that submitting oneself to the Bracket of Integrity is the only true and pure way to live.

For those few of you that do not know what I am referring to, and are still reading, the principal behind the Bracket of Integrity is extremely simple: you fill out one bracket with one set of picks. Those are your picks. Those are the selections you have made based on your expertise, intuition, and whatever other magic means you employ in making them. Those are the picks you put up against others to determine just how amazing — or not — of a college basketball fan you are.

Now, here are the rules that accompany this extremely simple principle. You must put these same picks, these exact same picks, on every bracket you fill out that will be entered into a bracket contest against people you know.

For example, my brothers and my dad and I have an annual bracket challenge — we have done it for four years and I have won once, but lost by one single point twice(!). I also join a few different March Madness bracket contests with different groups of friends. And then there is always the trusty office bracket challenge. All brackets you enter into these types of contests must contain the exact same picks. This is nonnegotiable, full stop. Violators will no longer be allowed in the hallowed Bracket of Integrity coalition.

Quite obviously, your picks can be adjusted up to the start of the tournament, or until you submit a bracket to a contest. As soon as you officially enter a competition, your bracket is locked. Forever (well, until next March). This is your bracket. Most likely it will be terrible, and you will be cursing your own stupidity and the cold and uncaring universe by the end of the first round, but thems the breaks. You made your choices, you must stand by them, for better or for worse. It will definitely be for worse.

But, and this is the caveat you have all been waiting for, an exception to this principle is allowed. Contrary to what all of the above my lead you to think of me, I am not a monster. I am not unreasonable. The lone exception to the Bracket of Integrity — the single tiny target you must hit in order to justify modifying your picks — is this: straight cash homie. Allow me to clarify. Most contests involving friends, family or coworkers have some sort of reward, cash or otherwise. That is not what I’m talking about here. The Bracket of Integrity, as stated above, must be used for all of these.

Here I am referring to the big money/prize contests put on by sponsors and/or websites. You know, the ones that you enter into with every other person on Earth seeking to win a million dollars worth of Warren Buffett’s fortune or a trip to next year’s Final Four or whatever. For these contests, by all means, go crazy. Fill out a thousand different versions of the bracket. Consult tea leaves, ask your children for help, throw darts at a wall. Get that money. See, I told you I wasn’t insane. If there’s one thing I’m OK with it’s regular folks getting a crap-ton of money and then blowing it all on stupid garbage. This is America after all.

So there you have it. The Bracket of Integrity is a vital institution in these crazy times. With fake news everywhere and Russia essentially running our country, we must hold onto the few things remaining that are right and good. And then, when your amazing picks are better than the picks of some people you know, you will bask in the glory of your intelligence and college hoops prowess. Or, as happens almost every year to me, you will vow never to fill out another bracket again after the dude from accounting that has never seen a basketball game in his life absolutely stomps you in the office contest.

Best of luck, and stay true to the principle. Long live the Bracket of Integrity. Long live March Madness.