NCAA Basketball: Sweet Sixteen even sweeter without stress of filling out a bracket

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

It’s become common practice for people from all walks of life to fill out an NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket sheet. March Madness dominates the sporting world this time of year. Even President Barack Obama took the time out of his busy schedule to fill one out.

I’m bucking the trend this year. For the first time since I can remember, I didn’t fill out my sheet. I’m not even exactly sure why I didn’t. It wasn’t because I forgot or because I’m not interested. I could say I was busy, but if the president found time, I’m sure I could have if I really wanted to. I just didn’t do it. It’s been a blessing!

I’ve discovered this year I’m watching the tournament purely for the enjoyment of the games. I’m not rooting for, or against, any particular team. My whole tournament hasn’t been ruined by Louisville’s early exit. It didn’t matter to me. Without a dog in the hunt, I can objectively watch the games and appreciate the talent of the athletes from both teams on both ends of the court. That’s something I’m not sure I’ve ever done since I began filling out a bracket sheet way back when I was in college.

I’ve always had my personal favorites, whenever Bradley would make the postseason tournament; I would loyally cheer for my alma mater. When they failed to
make it, I usually cheer for Illinois or Tennessee, two of my other favorite teams to watch.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I would root against the perennial powers such as Duke, North Carolina, Kentuckyand Indiana. That fact alone kept me from
ever winning one of those pools.

This year, I not only saved myself the entry fees, but also the time and trouble I would go through filling out the sheets. I figure ‘I’m at least $10 to $20 ahead. So I plan on using that windfall to have a few more wings and beverages as I watch the tournament progress. It gives me an entirely new meaning to the term Sweet Sixteen.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the March 23-29 issue

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