Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/17/2007 02:16:00 AM
Blog Pool Update: Welcome to Chalk City
Believe it: Sixth-seeded Notre Dame came up short against No. 11 Winthrop.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This was the best first-round site in the bracket, despite the fact that there are blizzard conditions outside and the main entertainment option last night was watching drunks ride a mechanical buffalo. I consider the trip successful because in this, The Year of Chalk, I witnessed one of the two double-digit upsets in the entire NCAA tournament field. Since 1985, when the dance was expanded to 64 teams, 2000 and 2007 are the only years that so few major upsets have occurred. If I hadn't been sitting courtside for VCU's magic, I'd probably consider this the worst first round ever.
While grumbling about my standing in the Tourney Blog Pool -- my Marathon Oil squad is tied for 353rd out of 639 brackets -- I got to wondering about the etymology of the phrase "chalk," which in bracket-language means the higher seeds are advancing en masse. My girlfriend, Emily, who joined the pool, sent me this definition (found on doubletongued.org):
Years ago—before computers, if you can imagine—bets were recorded on a large chalkboard. The favorites would get the most checks and thus the most chalk, making picking the chalk the term for picking the favorite. This, however, is nothing to be proud of. No one brags about picking the winner when the chalk comes home—which happens about a third of the time.
Even the definition makes it clear: Chalk is nothing to be proud of. That said, we still most honor the Blog Pool's first-round leaders, one of whom happens to be from my original hometown (Fort Atkinson, Wis.) and also the younger brother of one of my younger brother's best friends, if that makes sense. University of Wisconsin student Joe Madden got 29 of 32 picks correct in his "Blackhawks > Illiniwek" bracket. (Chief Blackhawk was our mascot at old Fort High.) The least I can repay Joe for the three years he logged -- from ages 16-18 -- as our late-night bar taxi during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks is by mentioning his name here. The other bracket tied for first is David Wunderlich's "Lee For Three." I can only assume David is a Florida fan, but since I don't know him and he's never provided me with free transportation, he gets second billing.
A complete first-and-second-round Blog Pool review -- with my favorite team names -- will come either late Sunday or early Monday. Check the standings here in the meantime. I'm proud of you, folks, for joining up in such large numbers (639 entries, the more I think about it, is crazy) and taking the time to name your squads. With so much chalk on our hands, the tourney can only get better from here.