Carney column: Enjoying the games for once

It’s that magical time of year where March Madness hits, games get crazy, Cinderella stories start to take shape, and college basketball owns the public’s attention for a few weeks.

With that comes the excitement of filling out brackets trying to predict the weird upsets and the eventual champion, all with plenty of money on the line, from office pools to big-money pools in Vegas and beyond. For me, the need to fill out a bracket and to take every pick seriously really started to wear on me, almost sucking the fun out of the entire phenomenon.

That’s why I decided not to fill out a bracket or partake in any sort of office pool this year, allowing me to simply kick back and watch the games as a fan and try to discover the joy in March Madness once again like I used to have in my college days.

Sure, I still have fun watching Syracuse try and make deep runs into the tournament when everybody writes them off, and I enjoy watching Kansas State, North Carolina, Oregon and others, but I found myself the last few years caring so much about each and every pick on my bracket that if I got it wrong, it affected my mood. That’s what happens when money is on the line and you’re near the top of a large pool. I won’t do that this year.

This year, I’m going to kick back in my favorite recliner and just take in each game for what they are: the highest level of basketball at the amateur level that brings on some of the best story lines of the season and has as much drama as your mom’s favorite evening television drama.

The best thing about March Madness is that it’s a one-off, and any team can get beaten on any night. Some fans of the sport might not like that since it doesn’t make clear who the true “best” team is in a single season, but the tournament is a gauntlet, and if you’re fortunate to get through it as a team and win it, you deserve the title of national champion.

Now, I’m not trying to make myself out to be some sort of game-changing sports reporter simply because I’m choosing not to fill out a bracket this year. I just feel it’s important to be able to recalibrate and get back to enjoying things you love.

I have to admit it’s weird to not fill out a bracket or two this year, but it’s relieving not to have spent hours on end on Sunday night researching each matchup in hopes of making the best possible pick based on the numbers and overall advanced analytics.

March Madness is, and always will be, a special time of year for me. But when I found myself starting to simply worry about the result of each game and not enjoying the 40 minutes of play in each game that gets to that result, I knew it was time to step back and readjust. I’m hoping this recalibration renews my true excitement for March Madness.

No more living and dying on each and every possession, no more yelling at the TV because the team I picked in a meaningless game is losing, no more stressing out by my standing in the bracket pool I’m in because money is on the line.

No, I’m going back to being a fan that just wants to enjoy the games. It’s not a novel concept, but it’s one I’m going to give a try this year in hopes of reigniting that passion for not only college basketball, but March Madness overall.

Enjoy the games this year; I know I’m certainly going to try and do that once again.

Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. Josh is a fan of the Syracuse Orange and hopes they can make another magical run this year in the tournament. He can be reached via email at, or on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.

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