Published: Sunday, March 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
For me, March has always been a time for college basketball. I entered my first NCAA pool through my dad’s work when I was seven or eight. A couple of years later, I won for the first time. I put the money toward a skateboard. Since then, I’ve managed two more wins. This surprises me. I enjoy watching basketball, I have a familiarity with the better players on my favorite teams, but I lack the obsessive knowledge that some of my more informed peers possess. I couldn’t tell you who the best player in the league is, what team is the runaway favorite, or how the infallible judgment of the selection committee screwed a deserving squad out of a good seed.
I really just enjoy watching the games and leaving things to chance.
Every year, it’s hard to find time to actually sit down and fill in the bracket. I don’t understand why. The entire process–at least the haphazard, random, and arbitrary approach I bring to it–takes all of five minutes. I suppose I just have a lot going on. The normal distractions from previous years returned: the chaos of heading back from Spring Break and an onslaught of midterms and papers always hit around the same time as my e-mail invitation to rejoin the pool I’ve been a part of for 15 years. At least I didn’t have to worry about housing this time around. That’s one problem we seniors no longer have.
So, last Wednesday, I finally opened up CBS Sports’ website and made my selections. It was a welcome reprieve from meticulously researching school districts that would be present at the career fair I would attend that evening. I’m told that it is important to distinguish yourself by asking intelligent, focused questions, so I do make an effort to get a sense of what a district is about. Knowing that tedious note-taking on potential employers would be my reward for completing my bracket, I ended up spending a little more time filling it in this year than usual. It was still a pretty random affair, but I looked at a couple of injury reports. My decision to have Ohio State take the championship was a result of the combined opinions of Charles Barkley and Barack Obama. Both had Ohio State making it to the Final Four, but neither had them going all the way. That was my personal touch.
A couple hours later, I noticed that a fellow job seeker had applied her own personal touch to her resume: the paper she had printed it on was a cloudy, whirling blend of soft gold and white. I hadn’t thought of that, but I didn’t let it worry me. My approach would be more intellectual than aesthetic. I maneuvered my way through a sea of suits and dress blouses, locating the first target on my list. I briefly reviewed my research before getting in line, introduced myself to the recruiter, and launched into my 30-second pitch. Take some notes, get a business card if the recruiter has one, thank them for their time.
As I meandered between booths, my mind kept wandering back to my bracket. I resolved to make a couple of key changes. Our fellow Jesuits over at Marquette, for example, would have to fall to Michigan State. In the end, I know getting the right picks is mostly a matter of luck. Last year, anyone who followed conventional wisdom got blown out of the water, not a single first or second seed made it to the Final Four. Still, deferring to the rankings makes me feel like I’m exerting some control on a random, arbitrary process. If you do things “the right way,” you’ll surely win the pool.
I found another district on my list, and took a quick glance at my notes. I approached the booth, ready to talk about the challenges of teaching at a school that speaks four different languages. When I was almost at the table, a representative from the booth immediately to the right intercepted me. This was not the plan. I was caught unprepared when he introduced himself – I hadn’t done much research on his school because their website didn’t list any openings. Nonetheless, I launched into my spiel, and when I mentioned I was looking for an English teaching position, he enthusiastically introduced me to the man standing next to him: the head of the high school’s English department. Of the dozens of schools I had talked to, this was the first time I had met the person I wanted to talk to—the one who, a couple of weeks from now, will begin pouring over resumes and applications and calling candidates in for interviews.
Of course, I–or any other senior, for that matter–won’t get a job based on pure chance. Rather, it will be our resolve and determination going forward, combined with the hard work we’ve put in over the past four years.
Still, from where I’m standing right now, with full awareness of how ambiguous and uncertain my future is, a little luck definitely couldn’t hurt.