The NCAA pool is getting smaller, and will be cut to four lucky teams by Sunday night. But as of this moment, fans of sixteen schools large and small are undergoing an all-day anxiety attack, waiting for a fateful tip-off, whether it comes tonight or tomorrow.
Making the Sweet Sixteen used to be de rigeuer for my Kansas Jayhawks. But the past two years have left Bill Self’s uber-talented teams as the butt of the “first round loser” jokes. This year a coworker berated me for “choosing with your heart and not your head” because I picked Kansas to go all the way. This despite the fact that eight others with no Kansas ties had done the same.
So, basically, I sit here all day, waiting for the 7:10 tip and having an all-day anxiety attack. I’m wearing my new Kansas shirt that my dad sent me last Thursday, even though it clashes with the business casual attire I’m required to wear. To make matters worse, I refuse to wash it until the Jayhawks either lose or win out. If they make the championship game, that’s six wearings.
My pulse rate is a little elevated, and I can be jumpy. My mind is preoccupied with the question of Southern Illinois’ defense. I’m also a little perturbed that I have to root against a team that I would usually be rooting for – I like it when mid-majors play well. I keep wondering if Bill Self is really a bad game-day coach. I mean, they used to slag Roy Williams as “not good enough” when he was at Kansas, but it only takes one photo op with a net around your neck to turn a guy back into a genius.
It can’t be healthy to be this worked up for a full 24 hours, can it? There has to be a way to minimize the effects, because the pressure intensifies with each win. Here are my suggestions:
- Move without the ball – Try not to sit at your desk all day, chewing your cuticles. Go out to lunch with co-workers. Carry a piece of paper around the office, looking impatient and busy. Just do something to walk out some of the turmoil.
- Play help defense – Stay away from people with no dog in the hunt, they won’t understand. Find the guy in your office (or online) who lives and dies with Carolina, or the woman who went to UNLV, and talk about hoops a little. You may love different teams, but you’ll be speaking the same language.
- Provide energy off the bench – Hit your team’s message board to trade purely theoretical player matchup assessments. Or head over to Awful Announcing and complain about the announcing team your region drew. Get some role players involved so you can rest your starters for a few minutes.
- Take good shots – Thinking about the whole kit n’ kaboodle is a sure recipe for madness. Pick one aspect of your team, or one player you love, and let that be the security blanket for your mind. It could be “Tim Floyd is a great college coach-he’ll find a way to win”, or “Their starters might be better, but we’ll wear them down on Defense”. It could even be something as ridiculous as “Sasha Kaun has been quiet all season, but I think he’s due for a big night”. As long as it keeps you positive.
Those are your Chevrolet Keys to the Game. Basically, you won’t be right in the head until your game is over. If you lose, you’ll sulk for a couple of days and then head to the sports bar for your fantasy baseball draft. If you win, you’ll start the cycle all over again. But if your team makes the Final Four over the weekend, at least you’ll have a great excuse to go out and get drunk with the college kids.
How do you deal with the stress? Let me know in the comment field.