Who has the best nickname?

Like most everyone in the country who works in an office, follows college basketball or has a pulse, I filled out an official 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket. As of this writing, I’ve not yet secured my Final Four or my champion; however, what I CAN assure you as of this writing is that, even though my bracket is not complete, it will most likely be busted by the time you’re reading this.

College basketball is one of my favorite sports. I enjoy the teams, the fans, and most importantly, the enthusiasm the players have for the game. Most of the kids on these teams won’t play the game past the college level, so it’s fun to watch them give their all to their schools. While the regular season is interesting, the action kicks up a notch for conference tournaments, and things really hit high gear for “The Big Dance.” After all, one loss and the season is over. Buzzer beaters, upsets, beat downs – it’s all a part of the madness.

There’s another part of the madness for me, though. And that’s the official filling out and turning in of the bracket.

I’m competitive. I don’t like to lose. And things that I know I’m good at (like picking college basketball game winners come tournament time) I expect nothing other than to beat everyone else. I don’t like to lose by one; I don’t like to lose by 10. I don’t want second place – which my sister, Rhonda, and I fondly call “first loser.” I want to – no, I EXPECT to – win these things.

And for a long time, I did. People at one of my previous jobs didn’t want to play with me anymore. I won one office pool three years in a row, lost by one point the following year (grrr), and then won it again the year after. Even my sister hated playing with me. “I’m so tired of you always beating me!” she lamented year after year. Not that she wasn’t pretty good at it too, but I was older and wiser, and I was a little better at it than she was.

But over the years, I think I’ve lost my mojo. Well, that and I don’t have as much time to follow college basketball as closely as I used to (Rhonda called me an “almanac”). I suppose all that college basketball knowledge got crammed out of my brain by cleaning, cooking and attempting to fold fitted sheets. My head is only so big – there’s only so much I can fit in there before other information starts getting pushed out. And by tournament time this year, I sadly admit that I hardly know all the players on my favorite team (and I DEFINITELY can’t tell you what number each wears).

So now with my college basketball knowledge whittled down to that of a mere commoner, what’s a girl to do when trying to fill out this bracket?

I suppose there’s the boring, traditional way of picking all the highest seeded teams throughout. But that’s boring. That’s like letting the Selection Committee complete my bracket. I don’t want some stuffed shirts and computers telling me who the national champion should be – this isn’t college football (don’t even get me started there). So we’ll scratch that option.

Maybe I should just go girly and pick the teams based on colors? Wow, I actually typed that sentence with a straight face. The second I “go girly” at a sporting event, feel free to commit me to an institution, as I’ve clearly gone bonkers. Option two is a big scratch.

Instead of picking based on color, how about picking based on mascots? Still girly, but at least you have to know something about the schools to know their nicknames. Of course, there are the standard Wildcats and Devils (and Lions, Tigers and Bears), but I prefer to reward schools for creativity. The Billikens of St. Louis University? According to Wikipedia, a billiken is an elf-like charm doll with pointed ears, a mischievous smile and a tuft of hair on his pointed head. Creepy dolls scare me, so suffice it to say they probably scare opponents too. Billikens advance to the next round.

What about the mighty Saint Mary’s Gaels out of Moraga, California? Gael is derived from the Irish “gaelic,” and gaels are speakers of a Celtic language. Trash talking in Gaelic – can you say awesome? Gaels advance several rounds.

The University of Vermont Catamounts only get an honorable mention. A catamount is just a fancy word for a scary mountain cat (like a lynx or puma). Fancy cats play a close game but ultimately lose to a team with a ho-hum moniker.

Other creative school names in the tournament include the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits, the Vanderbilt University Commodores (although when I hear commodore, I think “commodore 64” old school computers) and the St. Bonaventure University Bonnies. I applaud their nickname efforts by advancing them all one round.

It seems like a pain going through all 68 teams and playing the battle of the mascots. And by this time, I’ve also realized that all my number one seeds have been eliminated. Well, it’s their fault, really. They are the Wildcats, the Spartans, the Orange and the Tar Heels. I mean, what’s an orange gonna do? Sting your eyes with acid?

Very rarely do the tournament seeds advance as assigned, but let’s just assume all the number one teams make the Final Four. I suppose if I have to pick between these wimpy mascots, I’ll take the Orange over the Tar Heels (acid trumps whatever the heck a tar heel is), the Spartans over the Wildcats (wildcats have claws, but Spartans have weapons), and the Spartans over the Orange (because when you’re waving around a sword, you’re bound to hit something, even if you’ve got orange pulp in your eye).

So there we go folks. You heard it here first. My bracket champion is the Michigan State Spartans.

Which means, by the time you’re reading this, they’ve already lost.