President Donald Trump has earned the title Master of Diversion.
When an unpleasantry needs covering up, he simply tweets something outrageous. But even tweets cannot trump Russian monkey business, travel bans and unhealthy health care any better than bracketology.
That’s whiplash you hear — heads spinning from Washington to, ultimately, Phoenix.
In the spirit of transparency, I am a wild and crazy college basketball fan, and not solely for the sport. I enjoy watching the players, their interaction with coaches, parents in the stands (or not), the humanity, the grace, the joy, pathos and connection to a school the game engenders.
Duke, my alma mater, usually fields a team of destiny, riddled with drama, delivering the highest highs and abysmal lows. But I also follow all ACC teams, especially N.C. State, Wake Forest and UNC.
So I should speak at least broken bracketology, right? I don’t, even though President Obama called it “the new American pastime” and Slate magazine maintains that 45 percent of Americans fill out brackets.
Yeah, like 5 million people attended the inauguration, where no rain fell. Not a drop.
Common sense tells me that only sports professionals have a handle on the 68 teams competing in the NCAA Tournament. How can anybody with a life know how the Providence Friars stack up against St. Mary’s Gaels? Northern Kentucky’s Norse against South Dakota State’s Jackrabbits? What do Middle Tennessee State’s Blue Riders ride? Which Rams squad has the better foul shot stats — Rhode Island or VCU?
I’ll grant this: The tournament — hyped a la Super Bowl — raises awareness for lesser known schools while teaching a geography lesson and selling beer.
The first elimination tournament took place in London in 1851. The game: chess. Wimbledon adopted the format, and the rest is history — a kinder, gentler history when the NCAA had only 32 teams.
That was 1977, birth of the first bracketology pool in a Staten Island bar. Now, money changes hands in office break rooms, book clubs and golf foursomes, not to mention Vegas.
Except Vegas betters don’t care a whit about the teams, only the odds or the spread or whatever works.
I don’t fill out a bracket. I’ll follow Duke and UNC until the final sneaker-squeak but leave the rest to my frenzied fellow 140 million Americans.
However, without trivializing a serious issue, I do see a correlation between bracketology and the American Health Care Act, with which it now competes for ink. Scan a bracket. You’ll see slots, each representing a team, sort of like the health care repeal-revamp points that kept one House committee debating for 15 hours, resulting in 60 amendments.
Other federal agencies are just as fractured as they seek to score a win from multiple eliminations/additions. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s convoluted, 30-minute televised roll-out reminded me of a corn maze with no exit — or a game with endless overtimes.
Worst, I couldn’t place myself in any of the groups he identified. So I still don’t know how the act will affect me — if at all, if it ever passes, in whatever form.
At least Ryan has the deal down pat. Trump is vague, avoids specifics, assures us that the new plan is “the greatest.” How can I believe hearing that my Medicare-based insurance is secure from a man who denies raindrops or imagines James Bond tapping wires at Trump Tower? A man who refuses to fill out a bracket, let alone pick a winner? A man who’s petulant when March Madness leads the evening news?
BTW: Obama’s just-released bracket has Duke playing Carolina for the championship, with UNC cutting down the nets.
See? He’s not such a bad guy after all.