Bracket Bust and Vested Interests

I don’t follow college basketball. But this year I filled out a bracket for the first time ever. I didn’t research anything. I simply chose based on hunches, and a bit on “how much I have heard people mention this team.” A team I picked to go to the championship already lost a game on the first day of the tournament. So my first ever bracket is, as they apparently say, busted.

Not that I expected to do great in this thing, though I did think my pick for the final game would get a bit further than the first game. Still, I didn’t lay down any money, so it’s not big deal. And I can say that I predicted three of the match ups correctly so far in the first round, though I haven’t watched any of them games. I  had planned to watch portions of some of the games at least, just for the sake of supporting my bracket picks. At this rate, however, who knows if I will have any teams left to root for by the weekend.

The whole thing got me to thinking about vested interest, though. How such things as competitions can become instantly more enjoyable if we even lightly declare a preference for an outcome. I, who have no real interest in college basketball will probably watch a bit of it each night, just because I officially filled out a bracket. No knowledge behind that bracket, but they are my picks nonetheless. Because they are my picks, I have a “reason” to tune into some of the games for a while as the month rolls on.

It’s like spring training baseball, which I have watched a bit as well. None of the games count, but you still want your team to win. Or if you are more into football, it’s easier to watch a game your team is not in, if you pick a reason for one of the teams to win. In many cases that would involve fantasy football. However, I will sometime root for a team I am otherwise neutral about because I hate their opponent more. Or because a friend of mine likes the team. Not as exciting as my own team playing, but it’s just that little bit of vested interest that makes the game more fun. (Though there are some games I just can’t watch, regardless.)

Chalk it up to human nature; some part of our brains and psyche’s are built to root for something. Not just in sports, though that’s the easiest metaphor of the concept. A few weeks ago we saw the same thing with the Oscars; we tend to root for nominees we have personally watched, even if we haven’t seen their competition. Then there are those who fill out Oscar pools, regardless of whether they’ve seen any of the movies. (Though it would take more than a pool for me to want to sit through the Academy Awards, I have to say.)

When there is money on the line, I don’t find the concept as fascinating. In that cast, people just want money. Easy enough to understand their stake. But when we suddenly find more interest in an outcome, simply because we said, “I predict this,” amuses me, even if my bracket is already busted.

I did however, fill out a bracket for the women’s tournament as well. So there is hope yet.


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