The biggest, most important college basketball day of the season for us talking heads at ESPN is Selection Sunday. It is such an important day that our bosses at the Worldwide Leader momentarily put down their post multimartini lunch cigars for a brief moment to decide whether to rubber stamp the additional expense for Rece Davis, Seth Greenberg, LaPhonso Ellis and me to have coach seats on a Greyhound bus to Bristol, Connecticut, direct from the ACC tournament, in favor of the added expense of allowing us to Uber some 30 miles to our drafty, musty motel to get some much-needed shuteye after an exhausting Champ Week schedule.
Of course, our frugal bosses invariably choose to save the $20 and place us on the Dirty Dog, but due to their long deliberation over the decision, we are the very last passengers to board the already moving bus, and the only remaining seats are next to crying babies and a chatty cowboy with a guitar. Yet, due to our boundless love of the game, we gladly board the Screaming Baby Express for the overnight trip, ingesting exhaust fumes and tripping over dirty diapers -- both adult and child.
When we finally arrive at the ESPN campus in Bristol as the sun comes up on Selection Sunday, we are bleary-eyed, disheveled and weakened without food and water for over 12 hours of nonstop travel on the Dirty Dog. We are then escorted by armed security straight to the "SportsCenter" set, where we are handcuffed to the desk so there will be no escape. Our pampered bosses monitor our on-air performance on multiple flat-screen televisions from their palatial homes, of course, after removing the cucumber slices from their eyes. Clad in satin robes while served breakfast in bed by an enormous staff of nameless valets, butlers, and chambermaids, our bosses wonder aloud why they ever hired us in the first place.
Later that night, after we are allowed an aged tuna sandwich wrapped in cellophane from a back-hallway vending machine, we prepare for that evening's Bracketology show, where we pore through the brackets, matchups, players and coaches from every conceivable angle. Without fail, as the tournament field is revealed, we are handed a bracket for each region to make our picks.
Our bosses usually call into the Bracketology studio from a five-star restaurant in New York City, while they enjoy a palate cleanser before the fourth course of their 11-course meal, to remind us that we have a grand total of five minutes to ponder the matchups and make our picks so graphics can be built and our hasty selections can be conveyed to the viewing and gambling public. Then our bosses move to the most important decision of the night, the soufflé, the strawberries Arnaud, or the La Madeline au truffle for dessert.
"What the hell," one boss will inevitably say, "let's get all three ... each. Take it out of The Bilastrator's measly check."
With only five minutes to make picks for 63 games, we sometimes channel Oliver Twist begging for a little bit more porridge, summoning up the temerity to beg our bosses for just a little bit more time to make our picks with some rational thought. A bellowing "no" can be heard from the backroom speakerphone of the five-star restaurant, followed by laughter and calls for "another bottle of Dom Perignon ... no, wait ... make it Kristal."
Yet, after our bosses order a limoncello and other digestifs while taking out their cigars and cigarette holders, they let their guards down and decide to throw me a bone. If I would truly like more than five minutes to make my picks, they say, I will be allowed to stay up all night to write this article, as long as it is submitted by the conclusion of their morning steam and massage, and as long as I leave the motel without requesting a late check-out. Due to my diligence and love for my job, I accepted their kind offer. The armed security guards outside my motel room door are not a factor in my decision.
My bosses know that my "More Than Five Minute Bracket" is, objectively, a national treasure, full of valuable information from the supercharged gray matter inside my magnificent cranium, and will provide you with the definitive, comprehensive guide to winning your bracket pool, your family bracket challenge, or your office pool that will gain you significant coin. You're welcome.
The "More Than Five Minute Bracket" will guide you to my unimpeachable selections in each game, along with specific reasons why a team can win or lose, and whether an upset pick is worth the risk in your bracket. It is, humbly stated, the gospel truth of Roundball wisdom. This season might have been an unpredictable roller-coaster ride portending a bumpy ride throughout the tournament, so fasten your seatbelts, put your seats in the full, upright position, and stow all tray tables. Through the "More Than Five Minute Bracket," The Bilastrator will provide you with a smooth ride, and get you to your destination in Houston with a legitimate chance to win your bracket challenge. So, sit back, relax and enjoy our Greyhound bus trip (while my bosses fly to Houston on the Disney jet). Don't you just love the Dirty Dog?! I have learned to love it.