March Madness is a Petri dish for tired ideas. Alternative brackets haven’t been fresh since the days of Mateen Cleaves, and the roughly 3,600,000 “Dilly Dilly” ads you are going to see this month will haunt you long past springtime. But both those gags seem avant garde compared to the most stale tournament cliché of all: “My bracket is busted.”
That sentence is uttered so often during the tournament’s opening weekend—both with sincerity and with a heavy lacquer of irony— that it has lost all meaning. There are plenty of ways to tell the world your tournament picks have come undone without resorting to that old chestnut. Please feel free to borrow any of these alternatives.
“I’ve disappointed Benoît Mandelbrot.”
A bracket looks like a fractal, and the Polish French American mathematician is the father of fractal geometry. Hence Mandelbrot’s great and frequent dismay at Kansas’ early exits.
“I duffed my fractal.”
For those of us unsure how to pronounce “Mandelbrot.”
“I placed a bad bet on some teenagers.”
Maybe don’t say this one in mixed company.
“The breaking of so great a thing should make
A greater crack: the round world
Should have shook lions into civil streets,
And citizens to their dens.”
From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, this one is good for when your co-workers don’t appreciate just how busted your bracket really is.
“I shouldn’t have let Warren Beatty make my first-round picks!”
This is a reference to the hilarious Oscars screwup from last year. However, because Beatty returned to announce Best Picture this year and did so successfully, you may want to follow up with “Remember Moonlight?” or, “I’m referring to the 2017 Academy Awards, just so you know.”
“Robert Frost just dunked on me.”
You see, a bracket kind of looks like a road with many forks, and this is a reference to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It suggests that while Frost “took the one less traveled by,” you picked the favorite, and so it’s like he’s putting you on a poster.
Actually, just say your bracket is busted. That works fine.