The annual rite of winter's end is upon us. For the next three weeks, seeds will not be building blocks of growth, brackets will not be retaining devices and Cinderella will not be a princess missing a glass shoe. They will all be part of the daily jargon surrounding March Madness.
It is the time of year when not only does a tiny school like Robert Morris have a shot at a national championship, but Cathy Morris from accounting has a shot to take home the winning office pool entry.
Madness is a good way to describe the coming days. As collegiate players practice their jump shots for the Big Dance, workers across the country are practicing their fake coughs, sniffling noses and gravelly voices to convince their boss of an impending flu outbreak. Just as a team can't go into a game without a plan, unprepared employees can't expect to come up with an excuse Thursday morning on why they must leave to catch the opening tip of the first game of the tourney.
Karma must be balanced with good consciousness. Faking sickness is the preferred route of trickery, but there are some brave souls who reach deep in the bag of ideas to pull out a death in the family. From a moral standpoint, this raises an interesting dilemma. Will the person feel responsible if Aunt Sadie kicks the bucket in the next month, as if he or she summoned the Gods of Doom to descend on the household? Will a vigilant boss scan the obituaries for calling hours, only to find that there has been no funeral planned?
In the practice of risk management, most workers will not tempt fate in such a bold manner. They will appear to be dutifully working, having no clue that a yearly event is underfoot. Glued to their computer as if they are cranking out mountains of work, upon closer inspection, they are streaming live video of the games. Lunch hour is a cattle call as people rush the doors precisely at 11:42 a.m. to have time to get to a restaurant or home to catch the 12:11 p.m. tip-off of SW Missouri St. vs. Texas.
I might not know where Valparaiso or Drake are located, but that minor detail won't stop me from taking two hours to see if they can slay teams from areas I do know. I may not know a single player on Gonzaga, but that won't stop me from screaming their name and high-fiving the room when they sink a buzzer beater. Plus, it's catchy. "Gon-zahhh-GA."
Dietary madness also reigns. Out of Pizza Hut's 10 heaviest delivery days, six of them are in March. Get caught cooking in the kitchen during a game and a party foul will be called. TV rooms become dining rooms, much to the chagrin of the fastidious. Two weeks of marinara sauce splatter, dropped hot wings, spilled soda and potato chip crumbles can make some people cry more than when Duke was bounced out in the first round.
March Madness is mandatory. Only the face paint is optional. Heavily recommended, but optional nonetheless.