Yes, it's March and madness is upon us. The time is now for the bragging rights to be spread thickly across the office. Trash talk is necessary and must be spoken at a high volume. Upsets are daring and chalk is smart.
We'd all rather be daring except Dawn in Human Resources. She'll probably win the money, but to hell with her and the snow globe on her cubicle desk. Basketball junkies have reached the four-day kingdom and here are some tips to increase your viewing experience:
Root for upsets
Let's start with something that seems fairly easy. The reason March Madness is the best time of year is the unpredictable nature of the games. To see Lehigh topple Dook is enough to make the whole tournament enjoyable. We all get those chills when we see Hampton's former coach Steve Merfield hoisted up by one of his players after time ran out on Iowa State in Boise, ID.
Of course, there are some upsets you can't get behind. If your Final Four pick is on the ropes against a team that lost to Dartmouth in December, it might be a good idea to stick with them. You need the big guys to win you the money.
Bracket tip: Pick upsets you want to see happen where you're pretty sure the team favored will lose in the second round anyway. That way, you can feel okay after the first weekend and remind yourself you're a genius.
The weekend is a sanctuary
If you're one of those poor souls who has to work on Thursday and Friday, we send our apologies. If not, find a group of buddies who called out sick or got fired to watch the games. Trust me, these people are the kind you should keep in your inner circle.
Even if you do have a grumpy boss or see yourself as unemployable if you skip work, meet up with your local friends over the weekend. When you do, remember that the games are all that matter.
Stories about your dog or job aren't needed in the sanctuary. Too many of those and you find yourself hearing nothing but voicemail recordings next March. Don't get yourself uninvited to a future hoops weekend because you find it necessary to talk about the weather. If you don't know hoops, keep your mouth shut and learn. After all, you have four days to pick up on the nuances of the tournament.
Bracket tip: Try to get a feel for who your friends are picking, and pony up on an upset pick you agree with. Or, make some friendly wagers during the games. For a last resort, bring some wings or nacho dip.
Never trash talk too soon
One moment in time never lost on me is the drive Villanova's Scottie Reynolds made to the bucket to beat Pittsburgh in the 2009 to get to the Final Four. My friends - all what felt like 30 of them - picked the Panthers to make the Final Four.
I picked the Wildcats and it seemed like I was in for quite a rude awakening when I heard jeers and jabs after Pitt tied the game in the waning seconds. The fury inside of me boiled up to my throat.
It came out when Reynolds made the final shot. I talked as much trash as I ever have that night. Grace in victory is important, but when the trash talk is spoken before the final gun, things can get testy. Remember that it will all come back tenfold.
Bracket tip: If trash talking is your thing, be sure to use it in a big matchup. Don't harass your friend over Minnesota beating UCLA if you have Bucknell going to the Sweet 16. Pick your spots wisely.
Support your teams
If you've been a hoops junkie for years, chances are good you have some old garb stored in a closet or drawer somewhere. Nevermind if it still fits, be sure to put it on when your team takes the floor.
There's a Kareem Rush Missouri jersey in my closet. However, Colorado State is in my bracket so it will have to wait another year.
Bracket tip: If you pick a team that fits your style, pick up a t-shirt or pair of basketball shorts. After all, when else can you wear basketball shorts in public? They're so damn comfortable and worth the high price tag.
Enjoy the 'One Shining Moment'
While most people connect the song with the tournament's outro that Luther Vandross recorded, there's only one moment that shines as bright as the corny vocals.
When Dook loses, you realize that you've come across the best and purest form of happiness. It's simply a holiday that no one ever has on a calendar. Rejoice in it.
Take to Twitter and Facebook and all other social media outlets to sing like Luther to the mountaintops. Call old friends and family members and relive the moment when Mike Krzyzewski knew his season was over.
Never forget how magical those moments were in your life. While you may have conformed to picking Dook to the Elite 8 because of their common success, you must drop all investments when they're losing.
After all, March Madness is supposed to bring us all together as basketball fans. And if Dook losing can't do that, nothing can.
Bracket tip: Pick against Dook. Please.
If you want my insight on this year's brackets, click here for my weekly podcast, 'Snap Exchange.' Episode 5 breaks down the South and East, while Episode 6 looks at the Midwest and West.
Sports are all I know. Writing came naturally. Sports writer by night & sports writer by night. Philosophy major who thinks the unexamined sport is not worth watching. Always for hire, never for sale. I believe that silence is the virtue of fools and I can't hear you.