There was a time when filling out my NCAA tournament brackets meant something.
Most years there was an office pool, with points assigned to various rounds. I won once in all those years, but I chalked it up more to luck than expertise.
There was a reason for that. A copy editor who didn't know a jump shot from buck shot won one year. She said she just kept writing down the higher seeded team.
I was almost that kind of expert, though I do casually follow a few college teams — and none more so than North Carolina's Tar Heels. I spent eight years in Charlotte, then married a UNC grad. So I'm a fan.
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The office pools ended when an edict from on high proclaimed there would be no more gambling on company grounds. Gambling? We all thought we were playing a game of skill, not gambling. But the edict stood.
It hasn't stopped me from filling out my brackets. Now I do it so that I can care who wins the first 32 games, then the second 16 and so on.
This year I tried something new.
I put my bracket against the one offered by the basketball experts at Sports Illustrated and the one offered by President Obama, who is clearly more accomplished at this game than I.
So far, I'm doing OK, but I'm glad I didn't put money on my guesses. It would probably make Obama a little richer.
You'd think SI would knock it out of the park. Don't those guys watch every game ever invented?
Maybe not. Last weekend, 10 of SI's teams lost in the first round. After the second round, SI had only six teams remaining in the Sweet Sixteen.
I did a little better, I think, with 11 losses in the first round but 10 teams left in the Sweet Sixteen.
Obama whupped up on both of us.
The president lost only 8 in Round One and put 11 teams into the Sweet 16.
So far so good, but the big money comes with the Final Four and, ultimately, the champion.
Let's take a look into the future.
All three brackets have three teams in the Final Four, thanks, in each case, to the stunning upset of Michigan State.
We've all got North Carolina in the championship game, but that is where we part.
SI and Obama went with the favorite, Kansas, to win it all.
I didn't even have Kansas in the final game, but went with an upset by Villanova — a dumb move, no doubt.
My winner was my personal favorite, North Carolina.
So while it may not mean much, just let me say: Go, Heels!
Contact Bob Bestler at email@example.com.