I heard the other day that die-hard college basketball fans are complaining about the NCAA Basketball tournament. They justly argue that the tournament does not reflect the best of the season. Shouldn’t there be a “National Champion” as a culmination of a great season – a la the football BCS system or the NBA Championship or Super Bowl?
I see their point, but completely disagree.
Actually, I think the tournament system is more a reflection of reality than the others. March Madness? How about January? April? November? Isn’t every day “madness”? Ever since Alice in Wonderland, “madness” represents the unpredictable. The varying mood swings of life. Anything can happen, and typically does.
How many times in our lives do things “go as planned”? If you’re like me, almost never. One of the greatest qualities we can possess is flexibility because in truth we never know what will come at us. That’s the Tourney. You can work really hard all season, be number one and then have a bad day and you’re out. Or, you can simply meet an opponent on their really good day and then you’re out. And for those Cinderella’s – you have an incredible, everything-we-tried-worked day and meet with success only dreamed of.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s March Madness. March is a topsy-turvy month. Seasons change – or do they? Some years we are still entrenched in winter. Others it can be full blown summer. This year we are lucky to have a beautiful spring. Judaism celebrates the holiday of Purim in March. Purim means lottery. It is a festival celebrating what appears to be chance. Everything gets flipped around – V’nahafoch Hu – what we thought should happen doesn’t, the influential fall and the underdogs emerge. Shakespeare tipped his hat to this unrest in Julius Caesar – Beware of the Ides of March. Even George Clooney kept up the tradition (with his movie title and by not winning the Best Actor Oscar).
So where does that leave us? Do we complain that life isn’t fair? Do we seek to change it?
Or do we celebrate these surprises – embrace the beauty of the unpredictable and marvel at it. I guess the real lesson here is not to put too much money into the brackets. That definitely increases your chance at sitting back in wonder. What fools believe that they can pick the winning brackets? What fools we are if we think we can predict life.