The magic of March Madness

March is almost over, but the best part of the month has just begun. The NCAA Menís Basketball tournament has been stealing my attention (and valuable sleep hours) since it started last week and will only continue to get more interesting as the number of teams dwindles down and each game means more and more. Every year, as the 64-team tournament begins, I go online and fill out a tournament bracket. With my limited knowledge of every single team, I usually do poorly. Itís easy to decide the winner when first-ranked Kansas plays 16-seed Western Kentucky; it gets harder, however, when teams like eighth-seed Colorado State play teams like ninth-seed Missouri. This year was no exception as after only the first round of games, my bracket was completely busted. I chose incorrectly in almost 30 percent of the games as yet another dream of the perfect bracket was lost. Interestingly enough, Iím not alone. After just the first two rounds of the tournament, there are no perfect brackets remaining of the 3.3 million that were submitted. Basketball fanatics and casual sports fans alike create these brackets in hopes of winning enormous cash prizes if they happen to choose the perfect combination of teams. With 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different combinations, however, most brackets end in disappointment. Upsets by lower-ranked ďCinderellaĒ teams always catalyze the excitement of the tournament, but their victories mean trouble for fans with very calculated brackets. After 14th seed Harvardís victory over third seed New Mexico, and 15th seed Florida Gulf Coastís win over second seed Georgetown, I feel confident that the only perfect brackets remaining after the first round were fans of each university who happened to get lucky by picking the other upset as well. Any person would have been called crazy for picking both underdogs to win.
Harvard has since lost to another higher-ranked team but FGCUís unlikely run continues. The Eagles basketball team is electrifying and inspiring. It has fans glued to their TVs, waiting to see which top-ranked team it will bring down next. The teamsí historical run even motivated me to make a little run of my own: I beat my dad ó who is my perennial rival ó in two games of ping pong in a row this weekend. Florida Gulf Coast has proven that underdogs can come out on top and my inspired performance on the ping pong table has validated that sentiment. Though my hopes of a perfect bracket are over with, Iíll continue to watch the tournament with ample excitement as I support the underdogs in every game. Who doesnít love a good sports story? On a side note, Sebring High Schoolís pre-IB economics class is excited to hold Sebringís inaugural CASH MOB. A CASH MOB is much like recently popular Flash Mobs, except instead of a mob of dancers, mobs of people are encouraged to spend their money at local businesses. The CASH MOB has been featured on NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, and CNN Radio, and is inspired by the fact that every dollar spent locally has a 15 percent more positive impact on a local economy than the same amount spent in big-box retailers. The intent of the CASH MOB is to benefit local businesses that generously support Sebring High School and the IB Programme, and the first one will be held at Mae Leeís Deli, located at 445 N. Ridgewood Drive, Sebring, on Wednesday, April 3. Supporters of small business are encouraged to assemble at Mae Leeís between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. to grab some delicious food and help stimulate Sebringís local economy.