WBEZ | brackets http://www.wbez.org/tags/brackets Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Bracket Madness http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kpcc bracket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>March Madness is upon us.</p><p>Thursday 64 college basketball teams will begin their mad dash through the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, and the Final Four, to vy in the NCAA championship game on Sunday, April 6.</p><p>But bracket madness has been going on a lot longer. Many folks have sweated over their selections or watched office mates - or President Obama - mull, debate, and endlessly discuss their own bracket choices.</p><p>If you&rsquo;re like me though, the word brackets usually conjures something other than basketball. Like those handy crescent-moon shaped punctuation marks. Or supports for a shelf.</p><p>I know I&rsquo;m not alone here. But these days I do feel like an outlier. The President&rsquo;s annual interview with ESPN has helped turn brackets &ndash; or &ldquo;Barackatology&rdquo; -&nbsp; into the must-have spring accessory.</p><p>But used to be, if you weren&rsquo;t a sports fan, a college student or college grad, or someone subject to hard-core inter-office peer pressure, it was pretty easy to maintain your bracket blindness.</p><p>Not anymore.</p><p>Don&rsquo;t get me wrong. I haven&rsquo;t caved. I&rsquo;m not pondering shooting percentages or whether Coastal Carolina has the coolest name in the Big South conference. But these days everything seems to have a bracket. <a href="http://thisismadness.starwars.com/">Star War characters</a>, <a href="http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/03/bracket-day-best-fictional-president/359085/">fictional presidents from television or film</a>, <a href="http://jezebel.com/5510811/pie-vs-cake-pie-is-champion">baked goods</a> - all have been entered into those tidy little slots.</p><p>More recently, bracket-mania has hit even closer to home. Yes, public radio shows (and hosts) have a bracket.</p><p>&ldquo;We went through shows that we like from around the country, shows that are interesting and new and that people may not know as well,&rdquo; said Mike Roe, a web producer and blogger with KPCC in Southern California. &ldquo;You know, trying to have a mix of those while also having people&rsquo;s favorites like Wait Wait Don&rsquo;t Tell Me and Radio Lab.</p><p>KPCC started their <a href="http://projects.scpr.org/static/marchmadness/">Public Radio Bracket Madness!</a> last year. The bracket was such a big hit they did it again this year. Next year Roe hopes to expand it to a full 64 shows, just like the NCAA.</p><p>When I asked him why KPCC went the brackets route, Roe gave me a very public radio answer. It&rsquo;s about starting a conversation.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean that&rsquo;s part of what makes it interesting is that it&rsquo;s a thing that you can debate,&rdquo; said Roe. &ldquo;That makes it a blast to be a part of.&rdquo;</p><p>Conversation, debate, passion &ndash; sure. But it&rsquo;s also about money. Roe says his bracket drives traffic to KPCC&rsquo;s website.</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what the NCAA figured out &ndash; that the people who fill out brackets far outnumber the sport&rsquo;s fan base. Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the Nation Magazine has done the math countless times.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of the NCAA&rsquo;s operating budget comes from the television contract for March Madness alone,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;So everything they do except for ten percent is tied to this tournament.&rdquo;</p><p>So I get why the NCAA loves brackets. But what about the rest of us?</p><p>Zirin chalks it up to our love for underdogs. A bracket &ndash; in sports or pop culture &ndash; is designed to produce lots of upsets. Even the lowliest team can pull a game out from under a top contender when all you have to do is play them once.</p><p>Plus anyone can participate and even win, whether they study records and stats or just pick teams based on their mascots or uniform colors. Take the same model, apply it to baked goods or TV characters, and you get all the pleasures of competition with none of the downsides - like reality.</p><p>Zirin says reality - or the lack thereof - is another big driver. Most of us won&rsquo;t ever be top athletes. But thanks to brackets, we can entertainment another fantasy - about playing basketball, like a boss.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was growing my dreams were about playing for the New York Mets or playing for the Knicks,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;Basically when they&rsquo;re playing fantasy sports people are dreaming about being owners, about being the executive who sits behind the desk and through their masterwork makes their own decision. It&rsquo;s like everyone is playing risk instead of playing sports.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport">Instagram</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 Are you into the NCAA's Big Dance? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/are-you-ncaas-big-dance-106176 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_ncaa_david_duprey.jpg" style="float: right; height: 187px; width: 280px;" title="NCAA men's basketball has everyone talking brackets and pools. (AP Photo/David Duprey)" />There will be an untold number of electronic devices tuned into the NCAA men&#39;s basketball tournament and stealing from a productive work environment starting Thursday. The champion will be crowned April 8&nbsp;in Atlanta. Across the country people are investing time, labor or luck filling out their brackets for the The Big Dance. &nbsp;Some money will be won and a lot more will be lost. It is one of the most emotionally charged sports events of the year.</p><p>There seem to be three categories for doing the brackets:</p><p><strong>Who wants to buy one of the NCAA teams for a couple of bucks? (the popular one)</strong></p><p>Some offices have set up pools for co-workers to buy a random team instead of filling out a bracket.&nbsp;Your selection is for the tournament&rsquo;s duration and if you are lucky, the final outcome of the championship earns the cash. Of course, when you are doing a blind draw, pulling a Number 1 seed (Louisville, Kansas, Gonzaga, and Indiana) or Number 2 seed (Miami, Duke, Georgetown and Ohio State)&nbsp; makes you feel confident for a winner in the NCAA title game.&nbsp; If you get a 16th seed team, you can forget about it. People who participate in this type of pool know it is mostly a matter of luck. It is a way to participate without even having a clue about the game or the teams. You&#39;ll find college alumni of a school root for a team they wouldn&#39;t normally care about or may be a rival. It also gets you to watch a game that maybe you wouldn&rsquo;t bother viewing otherwise.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>I should have been a player or a coach since I know the game so well. (the hard-core one)</strong></p><p>The NCAA basketball pools that people really sink their teeth into is the selection of teams through the rounds, right to the Final Four and the eventual Championship. This is where everyone believes they are a master of picking the winners. Some participants will pour over every team and delve into every stat and try to get their hands on every morsel of information. This is for the real college basketball junkie: What did the team do in the past ten games, who is hot, what region are they playing, what is the team&rsquo;s travel, are they from a strong conference, did the selection committee give them a proper seeding, does this team have a great x&rsquo;s and o&rsquo;s coach, are there NBA caliber players on the squad, is it an up-tempo team or is it a physical team?&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Hey the Internet has the bracket and I can ask my wife/husband who to pick (the casual one)</strong></p><p>This is a perfect vehicle to make selections when you work from home and can be wrong and no one will find out. The casual fan will get involved with this pool and sometimes the randomness of picking the winners pays off. You can be safe with your NCAA selections and choose the favorites throughout. Maybe it&rsquo;s your alma mater. It could be a parent picking where they send their kids (and money) to college.&nbsp;You probably won&#39;t win since there are always upsets that will implode your bracket (Hint: a #12&nbsp;seed usually trips up a #5 seed. Think Oregon.). If you don&#39;t have the knowledge you can find someone who will do it for you.</p><p>This is when there is a tap on my shoulder and a sheet put in my hand as my husband asks, &ldquo;Will you fill this out for me?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout"><font color="#006896"><em>@CRayeStout</em></font></a><em> and Facebook </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame"><font color="#006896"><em>Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</em></font></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 19 Mar 2013 20:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/are-you-ncaas-big-dance-106176