Tips for Making the Most of the Madness!

It’s that time of year again…Old Man Winter is petering out; Catholics are missing those Friday wing nights; the Sox are sunning themselves in Fort Meyers; and the first wave of March Madness is here! In terms of predictions, I think you’re a lot better off conferring with the gang over at ESPN (I once came out of the first weekend with my picks ranking in the 0.5th percentile… #SheetOfIntegrity) but what I am an expert in is making the most of the opening Thursday (not counting the updated format play-in games in Dayton…And just for the record, Dayton will only ever count in my book when UMaine finally wins that elusive America East Conference slot. Hey! It could happen; and monkeys might fly out of my butt…) Regardless of whether it’s now officially the 2nd Round, there really is nothing like the feeling of tuning in for that first noon tip off with a few good buddies; pristine bracket in one hand, cold beverage in the other, and 63 games of hoops excitement laid out like Thanksgiving dinner.  Eat up!   
The first step in preparation for Thursday is setting up your bracket. The reason the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship is such an amazing tournament is that every person who fills out a bracket has a stake in every single game. Whether it’s for a friendly wager or just for pride, you have to take the time to submit your picks. ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS Sports all have free pick-’em pools…CBS Sports also has an app that allows you to both view your picks and watch the games live on your phone…this is crucial for surviving those evening meals with your relatives that happen at the most inconvenient times throughout the tournament. 
The second step in preparation is to prepare your audio-visual system for maximum viewing efficiency. If you have a picture in picture TV, that is a good start. If not, try ordering a second cable box for a week…most cable companies will rent one out at a reasonable cost. If you are a technologically savvy modern social-media-addicted American, you can also make good use of a couple laptops or iPads…again CBS Sports has all the games streaming live. It’s critical to be able to monitor ALL the action so you know when to get those potential 15-2 upsets onto the big screen…you gotta be handy with the remote if you know what I mean? Earn your keep…
The last step to setting up a perfect day of basketball rapture is to prepare your nourishment. As the host, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your viewing teammates stay strong through the grueling schedule. Make sure you have an ample supply of all the salted snacks that complement the crisp hops brewed freshness of your Miller Lite (note that with this kind of sports watching commitment, it is not the day for guzzling double IPAs…you will not make it to the late games).  I recommend the following staples:
  • Dry roasted peanuts
  • Tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, and salsa (simple nachos go a long way)
  • Ruffles and dip (try the dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix with sour cream…and save some of the sour cream for the nachos)
  • Hummus and pita chips (for your “crunchier” hoops brethren)
  • Pre-cut veggies (optional)
  • Hormel Party Tray (no party is complete without little processed pepperoni slices)
  • And of course, a many ice cold cans as you can fit in the fridge – note the new 16-ounce pint bottle…it allows for 1/4 less trips to the kitchen, and thus, more hoops!!

Another good idea to assist in sustenance is to invite those friends who feel the need to bring their own appetizers (shout out to Noah P here…you are appreciated, my friend). I consider this an excellent weeding-out method for choosing your starting team versus your subs…you know; the dudes you invite last minute who end up sitting in that last remaining uncomfortable wicker chair…sorry fellas. 

So that’s it. Good luck to all of your picks! May your teams at least win more than your best buddy, your wife, dad, son, etc…I leave you to dreams of Cinderellas and diaper dandies as the clock ticks down to Thursday.

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