There are several reasons I look forward to spring. The sun comes out, the weather warms up, everyone seems to get a little bit happier and another semester is almost in the books. All of that is enjoyable, but the biggest reason I love spring can be summed up in two words: March Madness.

March Madness is so much more than sports fanatics finding one more reason to go crazy over athletic prowess or place bets on which team will win. The NCAA tournament has a way of bringing people together and creating conversations where there was formerly nothing to talk about.

The tournament is special for my mom and me. She and I have filled out our own brackets for the past seven or eight years. We’ll bet a milkshake or a pizza or some other piece of delectable goodness because — let’s be honest — I’m from the Deep South, and most bets revolve around food.

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Daniel and Cathy Ray. Photo credit: Daniel Ray

Every year, we’ll print our brackets on selection Sunday (you can find yours on the last page of the March 13 publication of The Signpost) and furiously fill them out at the kitchen table.

She’s a traditionalist, always going with the proven greats like Duke, North Carolina or UCLA. I’m more of a risk taker, so I usually pick a few key upsets here and there.

My grandad always weighs in, calling to tell us how his bracket is set up. I’ve never seen anything past his sweet sixteen ever change. He picks the same proven teams every year to end up in the finals, and he always picks Gonzaga to win it all — and for the first time in years, he may actually have a chance of being right.

Over the next week come the wonderful first and second rounds — nonstop basketball for days on end. Major television networks drop their programming to cover the games. This is where we get to see the Cinderella stories begin to take shape, and 12-, 13- or 14-seeds beat teams no one expected them to be able to handle.

Weber State got a taste of those upsets in 1995 and 1999, with 14-seed over 3-seed upsets over Michigan State and North Carolina, respectively.

Until this year, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to be in my room working on homework when I hear my mom yelling frantically for me to come into the living room, and an upset is in the making. March Madness brings out our natural love for the underdog, and nobody loves a good upset more than we do.

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Daniel and Cathy Ray. Photo credit: Daniel Ray

This year is a little different though. She still picked Duke to win it all, trusting the coaching genius that is Coach K. My grandad still picked Gonzaga to cut down the nets in Phoenix.

However, I moved across the country this year, so I don’t get to watch games in the living room with my parents as in years past. This is one tradition that stings a little bit now that I’ve left the nest.

It’s funny, though. Despite the distance, the March Madness fever followed me. We still sent each other our brackets, and throughout the regular season, we’ll call or text during a big game.

Thank God for FaceTime, so I’ll be able to rub it in her face when Duke loses to Villanova in the Elite Eight (a guy can hope), and we’ll both call my grandad to console him when Arizona knocks out Gonzaga before winning the whole thing.

The truth is March Madness is a family tradition. Traditions have a way of lasting despite circumstances, and this year is proof of just that. So fill out your brackets, talk smack with your friends and maybe even see if your mom will bet you a milkshake on the winner. She might just take you up on the offer.

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