RED Hearts: March Madness

march+madness4RED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today.

Eliza Appleton, 24, in NYC, is unexpectedly deep in March Madness:

I am a professional sports guru. The kind of girl who makes a guy’s jaw drop when we’re watching the Patriots in the same room. The kind of girl who can beat almost anyone in Red Sox trivia, who can name all the Bruins players, who recognizes athletes (who are usually seen under the disguise of hats and helmets) in commercials and on the streets.

I wake up every morning to a Monday Night Football theme song alarm. I haven’t missed a Patriots game in eight seasons. I get far more ESPN alerts on my phone than text messages or Instagram likes. People even called me EA Sports in college, like the video game company, because yes, my initials are EA (and no, I don’t play video games), but mostly because I love the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB more than most people love their children. I live for them.

I grew up in Cambridge, MA, with a baseball-loving father — and a mother who pretended to like baseball until she married him. Whomever I marry will never have to deal with that.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled as a Boston sports fan. OK, definitely. Our teams were and are so good that I’ve never needed to turn anywhere else.

This may also be why I generally hate college sports. Why on earth would I watch a bunch of amateurs — most of whom won’t make the pros — when I can watch sophisticated playmakers dunk, hit home runs, score touchdowns and goals?

And then this spring it happened. I was roped into making a March Madness bracket for the first time in my life. I don’t know college basketball or any of the players unless they’re featured so much on ESPN that a name might sound familar. But alas, I rolled the dice, elicited one of my finance-bro coworkers to check it over, and I submitted a bracket to an 88-person pool.

Cue crazy, competitive EA Sports. I was determined to beat the guy who’d convinced me to join the league. It was war. All of a sudden, with something at stake, I couldn’t stop watching. Somehow, I looked at the clock one Sunday and realized I’d been mesmerized by 11 hours straight of the NCAA tournament.

I screamed for players I didn’t recognize, schools I’d never heard of, states I’d never been to. I was addicted to my bracket. I wanted to win.

Unfortunately, my newbie enthusiasm didn’t do much for my team-picking. Going into the final four, I am in 39th out of 88 people. I’ll still watch the Final Four games and the championship matchup because I want to finish as high as I can in my bracket, even though I’m far out of the race. Plus, I’ve gotten pretty attached to Kentucky, as they haven’t lost a game all season.

But really, all I can think about is how next year, I’m going to read about the tournament non-stop, do my research, and kick my coworker’s ass. There’s nothing more gratifying than defying expectations and crushing the competition. The comeback kid. The upset of the tournament. That’ll be me next year.

In the meantime, I’ve already got my David Ortiz Red Sox shirt on. Four days till opening day. RED Hearts guest poster Eliza Appleton is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.