Break Out The Highlighters

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: Tom Schulte

Upon taking my last few bites and settling up the bill for our meal in the North End Monday evening, I glanced down to my friend’s illuminated iPhone screen. A notification showing a new text message from a familiar sequence of numbers that struck me as odd. The message read “UVA is too stingy. You’re a punk--you’ll be out of contention by Sunday.” While it took me a brief moment, I began to understand the context of the conversation and immediately gained a deeper appreciation for a longstanding March tradition. Let me explain....

For as long as I can remember, I have been filling out and monitoring brackets for the annual March Madness basketball tournament. Typically I’d submit a ‘whacky bracket’ (underdogs only), a Syracuse bracket (Syracuse winning it all), and then three or four brackets that were appropriate given the talent landscape each year. For my father, the March Madness tournament was a win-win. For an entire month my efforts and begging to go skiing or shoot hoops would be subdued. Additionally, it was perfectly acceptable, if not encouraged, for us to once again become ‘one with the couch’ and watch as much college basketball as humanly possible.

Up until college, my father was my sole connection to an organized March Madness administrator. Year after year I was included in his firm’s tournament challenge—going head-to-head against his fellow partners, peers, and mentors. And though the main focus was (and forever will be) correctly predicting games, I was given access to part of his life that I had never really had before. I would strategize with his coworkers, whom I had previously only known by name. Those same strategy discussions would typically lead to trash-talk sessions in the days to follow. I take quite a bit of pride in my arsenal of trash-talk and can directly attribute its robust features to said discussions.

Today, for picking-purposes, the landscape has changed somewhat drastically. My peers and I are now competent enough to administer our own tournament brackets and my father has been enjoying a life without having to work. Furthermore, I believe this is the third year the tables have turned with my Dad now joining my group’s tournament. While I cannot speak for him, I like to think that he is given access to my outside-family life, similar to the exposure I gained to his, through the firm’s March Madness tournament.

Like most people, I find texting at the dinner table to be a rude and annoying habit, yet completely acceptable when it comes in the form of inbound trash-talk from your father to your friend.

I wish good luck upon everyone for the upcoming tournament. May your brackets filled with yellow highlights and the pinks be minimal!