- Atlanta hosts the NCAA Final Four
- Bracket Town is 300,000 square feet of college sports
- Bellini: The Final Four is "completely taking over my city"
When something big and exciting happens right in your own backyard, you sort of have to stop, pull up a chair, and enjoy the moment. Especially when it's quite literally in your backyard.
But I'm easy. Two squirrels fighting over an acorn qualifies as must-see, five-star entertainment.
My assistant knows the drill.
"Acorn fight! Diane, cancel all my appointments."
Of course, I don't actually have an assistant named Diane. And I don't have appointments. But if I did, she would clear them for such unexpected awesomeness.
Which, when you have my delightfully low standards, would be often.
But this weekend, in my figurative backyard of Atlanta, there are some actual, legitimate big-time festivities happening. So big, in fact, it's like THREE squirrels fighting over an acorn.
"Sweet Moses! Diane, bring me nachos."
Naturally, of course, I'm talking about the world-famous, four-day-long, sweaty orgy of humanity known as the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.
Mind you, that isn't their official description. But it should be. You know. For kids.
And not only is the Final Four completely taking over my city, it's also trending everywhere online in social media.
Thus, I figured, so long as people are talking about it, and so long as it's in town, I might as well become one with "the madness" and download the official app to learn exactly what's going on. (Ahem, disclosure: CNN is a part of the TBS family, and TBS is a major broadcast partner of the NCAA Final Four. Though I am a team player, this week's topic has nothing to do with my employer. I chose it because I'm lazy and it's happening next door to my office).
Sadly, however, the schedule of events doesn't suggest anything about fighting squirrels.
"Diane, take the rest of the day off."
The Final Four Atlanta app is actually pretty useful for sorting out all the weekend's craziness, and I immediately noticed that most of it is happening in a strange place called Bracket Town.
I sort of picture a sad little neighborhood where the streets are littered with torn pieces of paper. The men are all clinically depressed because their girlfriends' "favorite mascot" strategy works every year. And at the end of March, tradition leads these anguished souls to the top of Heartache Hill to scream profanities at Georgetown.
In fact, when it's not serving the Final Four, Bracket Town is actually just the lower level of Building A of the Georgia World Congress Center -- otherwise known as the greatest carpet contract in the history of man.
Seriously, this place is huge, and every time I walk through part of the 3.9 million square feet all I can think is that whoever sold the flooring is living large on a private yacht.
And it drives me crazy.
You see, I currently do not own a private yacht. Which is not to imply that someday I will. Because I most certainly won't. I studied journalism.
So, just what is Bracket Town?
In their own words -- presumably drafted to charm and delight the Alliteration Appreciation Association Around America -- the NCAA describes it as "the Ultimate Final Four Fan Fest, offering more than 300,000 square feet of family-friendly activities."
Flippity frick frack! That's a lot of F's. And it's also a lot of floor space. I took a preview tour on Tuesday and needed oxygen.
Consider that a regulation basketball court is 4,700 square feet. By doing far more math than the warning label on my discount-bin brain allows, I somehow calculated that Bracket Town is roughly the equivalent of 64 full-size courts. That's massive!
Having said that, I realize this is a completely useless statistic, and none of us are any smarter for my calculations. Plus, I now have a headache. And a rash.
Unrelated. Long story.
Nevertheless, inside Bracket Town, which goes from Friday at noon until sometime Monday when they run out of Fs, ticket holders can experience everything from 3-on-3 tournaments to autograph signings to skills challenges in several of the 80-plus NCAA sports.
Sadly, napping on the couch does not appear to be one of them. So, I don't predict any personal success in these challenges. It seems my greatest skill does not lend itself to scholarship opportunities.
But for many of the expected 10,000 Bracket Town fans who possess far greater athleticism than I, there will be plenty of opportunities to slam-dunk basketballs, kick soccer goals, and crack home runs.
And for my equals who would rather test the limits of their liver than those of their muscles, there's even an adult beverage lounge setup by Bleacher Report. You know, because Mommy needs her medicine.
Of course, this is all just one large part of an already action-packed weekend.
In addition to Bracket Town, Centennial Olympic Park will be hosting free concerts from My Morning Jacket, Sting, Dave Matthews Band, and more.
Which is great, save for the fact that somehow getting home from downtown will require a catapult. And I'm not sure how I feel about being hooked up to a machine just to bypass traffic.
So, a bunch of us are just sticking around and taking it all in.
Because this is the Final Four, and this is MY backyard.
"Diane, help me find a port-o-john."