It’s that glorious time of year when 68 teams, and millions of people settle in for what they all hope are three weeks of bliss in making their bracket come true.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will begin, in earnest, on Thursday with the first round of games being played at locations across the country.  So while most Americans won’t be paying attention at work late this week, costing employers & taxpayers almost $40 billion in lost production, there is a greater loss that comes from watching March Madness.

The Sell Out

At some point in our history, like everything in sports, the purity of competition was corrupted by the almighty dollar.  The NCAA Tourney suffered the same fate with the invention of the “Bracket Challenge”, utilized by the same folks who started fantasy sports.  This has no doubt brought countless dollars to sponsors, media companies, and others (maybe even those who win their brackets).  But at what cost?

March Madness Bracket
Filling out a bracket shouldn’t come with a second chance. At least not in the same season.

The Integrity Bracket

Now, make no mistake.  I’m not above betting or gambling.  I take part in my fair share.  Part of gambling is only having one hand, though.  I love the idea of filling out a bracket, trying to find where Cinderella may appear, or seeing if the college blue bloods will once again reign supreme.  However, I don’t like the idea of filling out multiple brackets to get the most opportunities to win. It’s like taking up every seat at the blackjack table.  More hands doesn’t equal more winnings, just taking more chances away from the others playing.  Now where’s the fun in that?

I’ve certainly been guilty of filling out multiple brackets before, but I’ve learned the error of my ways.  Many of my friends began tweeting about the “#IntegrityBracket” and I absolutely love it.  The real, true, honest man’s way of participating in March Madness is to fill out one bracket and let it ride.  By being someone who only fills out one bracket, you show your integrity in allowing it to be a fair fight amongst your friends, co-workers, classmates, and family.  Most importantly, nobody likes the guy who brags about how in one bracket he lost his national champion, but still has his entire Final Four intact in another.

NCAA Final Four logo
Who’s going to the Final Four? It all starts on Thursday!

Filling out one bracket means you’re honest, loyal to yourself and your decisions, and self-confident.  Sure, we all second guess our decisions.  Was it right to quit that job?  Did I really need to buy that new car?  Should I have had that second helping of Chipotle?  But we can’t go back and do it over again, just live and learn.  That’s what I’m challenging all of you to do.  Live and learn.

A Last Chance to Second Guess

Yes, the coaches and players will second guess no matter the outcomes.  But they don’t get to go into another bracket and keep playing.  Our forefathers didn’t get do-overs, they put in safeguards so future generations could learn from their mistakes.  Now it’s our turn to do the same.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Over the next roughly 36 hours, you’ll be putting the final touches on your bracket(s) and getting ready to settle in and watch the most wonderful time of the year.  You’ll do it on your TV’s, laptops, tablets, office computers and even your phones.  You will witness buzzer-beaters, comebacks, highlight reel dunks, and upsets.  You’ll see it all with friends and family over food and booze.  But may I make one, small request?  Do it the right way. The manly way. The American way.

Also, stay tuned as Thursday morning I’ll give you my (only) full bracket.

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