When Perfection Meets Genius
Perfection is all around us.
Genius, though, is a far rarer commodity.
Often there is perfection in nature.
The scent of an orange blossom. The song of a bird on a quiet spring morning. The sun glistening off the icy slopes of Mt. Rainier on a clear day.
We frequently find perfection in sport.
The exquisite design and symmetry of a baseball diamond, as well as the ball itself, with its perfect size and shape. The way a golf club feels in your hands when you’ve struck the ball precisely.
Add to that list the NCAA Basketball Tournament, known throughout the land as March Madness.
As it was initially implemented in the mid-1980’s, with its 64 (now 68) teams as chosen by a Select Committee of Basketball Experts (why there’s no such committee for football remains a mystery), the inherent fairness of the brackets, and the unpredictability of little Davids regularly dispatching of Goliaths, March Madness has a charm unlike anything else in sport.
Throw in the undeniable possibility for disinterested bystanders to make sport on such activities and you have a fertile breeding ground for inventive wagering opportunities.
This is where an element of genius entered the scene in 1988.
A man recognized the perfection created by the Selection Committee and added his own simple, yet brilliant twist.
He called together seven of his friends and associates a few nights before the 1988 NCAA Tournament started.
The eight of them anted up and drew numbers, 1 through 8, for draft position. Using a serpentine draft method (the last pick in the first round goes first in the next round), each player wound up picking eight teams, until all 64 teams had been chosen.
The player whose eight teams win the most games in the tournament wins the pot. Picking the eventual champion gets you six wins, but no guarantee of overall victory. Wins from unexpected sources, like Lower Slobovia State, Northeastern Central A&T, or Florida Gulf Coast U. all count toward one’s total number of wins.
Winning the pool combines mostly skill and a little luck. Just ask the winner, he’ll tell you how he just knew that Wichita State, for instance, was about to catch fire.
Losing the pool combines mostly bad luck and far less skill. Ask the losers, they’ll tell you about the close ones that got away.
To this day, gentlemen (and one very brave and refined lady) gather, first to pick their teams, then meet up again three weeks later to watch the Championship Game and settle any outstanding debts that have been incurred over the course of March Madness.
It’s not often that perfection and genius cross paths in sport.
Examples of it are few and far between.
Sandy Koufax from 1962 through 1966.
Coach Wooden’s 1972 UCLA team.
Abbott and Costello’s ‘Who’s On First?’ routine.
Add the name Larry Johnson to the list.
Leave it to a guy with the personal philosophy ‘A guy ought to make at least one bet a day…..otherwise, how will he know if he was lucky?’ to bring sheer genius to the perfection that is March Madness.
There’s no question about it.