Our story begins in 1987. I had, as was the custom even then, made my Final Four picks in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and they turned out, as was and remains the custom, not so hot. And I got a letter — anyone remember letters? — from a reader saying, “You obviously know nothing about basketball.”
That sentence stuck in my mind, such as it was/is, along with another, this one spoken by then-AJC copy editor Gerry Overton, who said: “I really haven’t followed college basketball much this year, but it’s every red-blooded American’s duty to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.”
And that, one year later, was what I did: Took two thoughts — one from a snippy reader, one from an esteemed colleague — and decided the guy who obviously knew nothing about basketball should have a little contest to see who did. Thus, in March 1988, was Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco born.
It wasn’t called that in Year 1. That came later, after an entrant scrawled the words “It’s a Fiasco!” on the envelope — anyone remember envelopes? — of his entry. (Yeah, I “borrowed” that, too.) This came at a time when every envelope had to be opened by human hand (mine) and checked by human eyes (mine again) and the winner’s prize was whatever I had lying around the house.
Well, here it is 2011 and we’ve come a good ways. The 24th annual edition of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco is fixin’ to crank up Sunday night, and our awards have gotten rather better. In addition to the customary Final Four sweatshirt, this year’s champ will receive a 32GB iPad with WiFi and 3G capability.
Also: Our second- and third-place finishers will receive a 32 GB iPod Touch. And: By entering the Fiasco, you’ll be automatically eligible for the $1 million prize in the national contest conducted by our corporate cohort UPICKEM.
The contest opens, as noted above, soon after the bracket is released Sunday night. You can enter by clicking here. (And you MUST enter online. We no longer accept entries via snail mail or fax.) If you entered last year — and 5,376 folks did — you can use the same log-in and password. That’s assuming you remember it. If you don’t, you can create a new log-in.
The contest closes at 11:40 a.m. on Thursday, March 17. Some among you will be saying, “What about the four play-in games? Do we have to pick those, too?” The answer is yes, with an asterisk. Since the bracket will remain open after the four play-in games — two are Tuesday, two more Wednesday — will have been completed, you’ll have the opportunity to change those picks without penalty if you missed any. But you guys are so smart you probably won’t.
Just for the record: The contest isn’t to outpick me, although I still, all these years later, feel duty-bound to offer up my selections for public ridicule. The contest is to have fun and win prizes and, once you’ve won, to tell the world how you did it. (Last year’s champ was Ryan Koudele, the boys’ basketball coach at North Springs High. Go figure, huh?)
And that’s all there is to it. Use these next few days to watch basketball and do your homework. Come back Sunday night ready to reap the fruits of your labors. It’s that time of the year, and it’s Year 24 for the ol’ Fiasco. In Year 1 our champ got a ballcap. This time we’re giving away an iPad. I call that progress.
By Mark Bradley