On March 13, 2011, 68 NCAA men’s basketball teams will be chosen to participate in a furious, month-long test of willpower, athleticism and ability to throw a ball through a cylindrical hoop. Loosely based upon the “2 men enter, 1 man leave” policy espoused in ‘Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome’, March Madness transforms your average 40-minute men’s college hoops game into a modern-day exhibition of gladiatorial combat.
The speculation behind the upsets, buzzer beaters, and outright blowouts that determines our national champion has become a religion that people worship as feverishly as the game itself. Many disciples of this theology flock to a place known as “The Most Warped March Madness Pool on the Planet.”
Officially, the March Madness pool goes by the name “Bread Pool” and it’s an online venue where a group of people come together every March to submit college basketball brackets in the hopes of nabbing an elusive $4500 first-place prize. Other payouts range from a $2500 second-place prize and all the way down to 10th place, which earns $225.
The entry fee is $60, but as true BREADheads know, the money is paying for a lot more than what’s essentially a NCAA lottery ticket in a 300-person field.
“People come to be entertained,” said Brian Higgins, who founded the Bread Pool in 1996 while he was bartending at a golf course in Livermore, California. “You’re paying 60 bucks, where 50 of it is a shot to win and the other 10 is to be insanely entertained for a month.”
It’s not some get-rich scheme for Higgins either. He takes a little bit off the top for the Jim Beam Fund (who wouldn’t?), but he’s caught up in the Madness just like everyone else. Don’t expect any apologies from Higgins if he takes home a share of the winnings (It’s worth noting that in the 16-year history of the Bread Pool, Higgins has never finished better than 6th place).
Higgins bands together individuals from across the country, using a combination of witty and bizarre emails filled with pop culture references, to embark on a NCAA bracket journey that is known most commonly as entering “The Meadow of Shame.”
It’s got a feeling of an eternal frat boy party where Higgins tells stories about puking in bars and getting arrested in a Taco Bell drive-thru in nothing more than a poncho. Uncensored emails from random strangers flow through the Bread Pool pipeline to the point where you actually feel acquainted with these maniacs. Something to note: It’s by sheer coincidence that the start of this year’s NCAA tournament coincides with St. Patrick’s Day, the heaviest drinking day of the year.
Filling out a college basketball bracket today is somewhat an American institution. It gives you a vested interest in every game and something to talk about at the office water cooler the next day. But once you spend a year caught up in The Meadow of Shame, you will be convinced that Higgins is the one that needs to be in an institution. This is not your average office pool. Take it from the Bread Pool testimonials:
“If only Brian would put his evil genius to work for the good of the planet, we’d have no more global warming or cancer. Of course, there would be bars and prostitutes on every corner.”
“The BREAD POOL is a lot like playing Keno in a strip joint. You see a lot of warped stuff … and every once in awhile, a pretty girl comes by and says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, you lost again. Would you like another drink?’”
Here’s one last shot of weirdness from Bread Pool lore. Every year Higgins documents the exploits of the past year’s champion in a completely faux Champion’s Tour. Higgins’tell tall tales talk of a champion’s appearance at the Idaho County Fair singing a duet with the Gin Blossoms or a newly acquired public nudity wrap sheet near an elementary school, but even the warp-minded Higgins couldn’t make up what fate actually had in store for last year’s champion. The 2010 champion, who I will leave unnamed, had his two Bread Pool entries finish in 1st and 3rd place, turning a $120 investment into a cool $6,500.
“I finally had my multiple-entry poster boy after all these years,” said Higgins, who is constantly badgering people to submit multiple Bread Pool entries to increase their chances of winning. “He was the oldest guy ever to win the Bread Pool (69), he lived in Sin City and he was going to use the money to golf and chase pussy.”
Understand that veteran BREADheads are never gullible enough to fall for Higgins’ embellished tales. There was nothing good or fun, however, about the champion’s fall from grace in 2010, as Las Vegas authorities found him dead in a Vegas hotel room in November.
“Nobody ever believes stories from the Champion’s Tour because I’ve been making stuff up for 15 years,” said Higgins. “But this year it’s going to be a little dicey because the guy actually went and kicked it on me.”
Even Higgins, who may be the most twisted individual on the planet, wouldn’t dare foretell such a depressing conclusion. Maybe that’s more credit than Higgins deserves…
“The worst part…,” said Higgins, pausing to recollect himself. “The worst part of the whole thing was that the guy actually cashed the checks before he went…He cashed the f#@king checks!”
Now at this point you’re either itching to jump on the Bread Pool express, or you are dismissing Higgins with the same disgust usually reserved for cult leaders who serve Kool-Aid spritzers. Higgins could care less either way because starting on March 17, he’ll be downing epic proportions of Jim Beam and having the time of his life, which may or may not end with him face down in a Las Vegas hotel room.
That’s just the way things roll inside the sick and twisted Meadow of Shame. That’s why they call it “The Most Warped March Madness Pool on the Planet.” To get involved in this warped March Madness scene and for a shot at eternal NCAA bracket glory, email Higgins at TheBreadPool@AOL.com. Tell him that Exec Digital sent you, but don’t believe anything he says about us. You can also check out the Bread Pool here or at breadpool.hoops.sportsfan.com.