TGIF: It really isn’t ‘March Madness,’ but it’s maddening

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

I’ve gotten more involved in “March Madness” this year than ever before, and it’s not totally related to college basketball.

I say that even though I’m aware that the term is a registered trademark of the NCAA. It, along with several other specific basketball tournament monikers like, “The Big Dance,” “The Elite Eight,” and “The Final Four,” are protected.

What’s maddening to me is this: Little things have become increasingly aggravating. Minor as they may seem to others, they are nonetheless frustrating.

Maybe it’s the sorta, kinda, almost-but-not-quite lockdown we’ve imposed upon ourselves over the past year. Or maybe it’s my advancing years. Or maybe it’s a function of retirement. Since significant work issues are no longer being encountered, other, trivial aggravations in life have taken on a more troubling feel. Whatever, even minor irritations often seem to blossom into major issues.

Here’s a situation that’s a case in point.

If you’ve not been introduced to the Zoom brand of online communications in the past 12 months, you are indeed fortunate. Even if you’ve never been called upon to join a Zoom meeting, you’ve probably been exposed to it somewhere. It’s how television programs interview guests these days. It’s how churches do online choir concerts. It’s also the source of countless jokes, and occasional frustration.

The Zoom program is not all that complicated for beginners to operate, but like most computer applications, it has multiple levels that advanced users can master. If you encounter something you’ve not seen before, it can be — well — maddening. It’s also embarrassing if you happen to be in the middle of a meeting with unfamiliar participants from distant locations.

A classic example of this was the court hearing involving a district judge and attorneys in the Alpine area. Zoom “remembers” your last settings, and one of the attorneys had let his child use his computer. The child found the filter that replaces your face with that of a cat, and the video became not only an internet sensation, but it also provided the closing humorous snippet at the end of multiple television news broadcasts.

So, I’m trying to be more cautious, even though I don’t have a child in the house who might tinker with computer settings. Before joining a meeting I “attended” this week, I checked and tested everything I usually check and test. All seemed well. I clicked the button to join the meeting, and a dozen faces appeared on the screen. However, there was no sound. I again checked everything I knew to check. Still no sound.

After about five minutes, I left the meeting and moved from the desk computer to a laptop. Audio there was working.

In the meantime, though, my concern over why I had no sound on the desk computer bothered me so much I didn’t get much out of the meeting. I didn’t contribute much to it either, but that’s not unusual.

When the meeting ended, I had time to crawl around on the floor and check all the connections while trying to find the problem. It took less than a minute for me to discover that the plug to the computer’s external speakers had been pulled from the electrical outlet. It was a quick solve.

My wife reminded me that one of our cats likes to squeeze into that spot for naps. Alternatively, one of us could have just as easily kicked it loose with our foot. We’ll blame the cat.

My journalistic instincts are rusty — another issue related to retirement — but I found myself asking, why does the month of March generate madness and other months don’t? Unless you have a very strong aversion to losing an hour to daylight saving time, it’s merely alliteration. Well, OK, it is indeed madness when underdogs knock favored teams out of the tournament during the first weekend of play, but otherwise, it’s basically effective marketing.

“March Madness” hasn’t always been used primarily by the NCAA. Its origin dates back to 1939 when it was coined, and later trademarked, by the Illinois High School Association to refer to its state championship game. Things rocked along until a television network commentator appropriated it five decades later and the NCAA picked it up. The Illinois association neglected to protest its use until someone tried to use it on a video game, so now it’s a dual use situation. But be careful with those other terms mentioned earlier. The NCAA owns those and protects them diligently.

Meanwhile, what about April Agony, or May Mayhem, or June Judgment? I’ll have lots of folly left over after March.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.