He advances -- and he scores!

What if all those tricky decisions in life could play out on a field?


March 31, 2002|By Scott Huler | Scott Huler,Special to the Sun

Sports satisfy so deeply because they offer certainty. Life is complex and filled with gray. There's no final score, no statistics, no easy way to determine whether you came out on top.

Not too much gray in sports (unless you count figure skating). There's eight seconds left, you're down by two, you set up for the three, you drain it or you don't. Sure, there are fouls, rules infractions, timeouts, but eventually a big honking buzzer goes off and you either won or you didn't and then you know something.

The annual NCAA basketball tournament, which winds up tomorrow in Atlanta, can satisfy our desire for that certainty like nothing else in sports. For one thing, 64 teams get in, which is code for just about everybody who has a claim gets a shot. For another, and this is what I love, it's plain and simple head-to-head competition. You square up, you battle it out, and you move on through your bracket or you head home. No confusion.

This is what I want in my life. I want more brackets.

Think of what it would mean if we had actual brackets for tough decisions. Instead of hemming and hawing, talking to therapists, we'd just throw the different possibilities into a bracket, start the clock, and let 'em play. And with a nice 64-spot bracket, you wouldn't have to leave much out -- the nice thing about the early rounds, after all, is the unlikely possibility of upsets.

Look at a possible first-round game, for example: You've got Go Pretty Much Straight Home From Work, a high seed that looks unbeatable. It's up against Stop at the Bar, Make Eyes at That Barmaid and What the Hell, a heavy underdog.

And the announcer says, "I guess it wasn't that surprising that Go Straight Home took that one. Go Straight Home is tough, especially in this region." But the color commentator says, "No doubt, but one of these nights the Barmaid will take out Go Straight Home, and is that going to be a tournament!"

And the decision is made, and there was never really any doubt, but in that moment of competition, haven't we gotten somewhere?

The second-round brackets are tighter, but the outcomes are still fairly predictable: "Oh, man, I knew Take It and Like It was moving on to the Sweet Sixteen, but I really thought You Know, Boss, There's Something I've Wanted to Tell You for a Long Time had a chance there."

And the color commentator says, "You're right, but I'm already looking ahead to the regional game -- Take It and Like It runs up against Some Geek From High School Making Two Hundred Grand a Year, and I think that's going to be touch and go. Some Geek plays intense psychological games, so Take It and Like It is going to have all it can handle next week."

And for sure, each time the Final Four will feature the usual suspects -- instead of Duke and Arizona all the time, you'll get Accept the Lousy Two Percent Raise vs. Move to Another City for Somewhat More But Not Much More, and it's exciting, but everybody's really rooting for the sixth- or seventh-seed that made it to the end: Join the Peace Corps, say, or Hike the Appalachian Trail, or Pack Up the Truck and Git. Those are the sentimental favorites that get close -- just close enough for us all to fall in love with them, just close enough for us to be a little nervous about what it would be like if they really pulled it off.

So I vote for life brackets. I guess I'd at least like to hear what the commentators had to say.

And just imagine the interest in the office pool.

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