The NFL playoffs are, for lack of a better word, amazing (the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in America, after all), and the three other major sports leagues — MLB, NBA and NHL — provide plenty of entertainment when their respected playoffs rear their beautiful heads (and all season long, for that matter), but there is nothing — nothing! — quite like the NCAA tournament.

There is a reason why so many people call in sick for the first week of the tourney, and there is a reason why thousands upon thousands of people fill out brackets year after year, despite the fact that they know said brackets will inevitably be ripped up at some point during the dance. There is a reason why the NCAA tournament has so many names attached to it, such as March Madness, dance and Big Dance. There is a reason why some mid-majors go crazy after winning their conference tournament, despite the fact that they know a No. 16 seed, and a loss, is in their very near future.

The NCAA tournament, March Madness, is — in one word — magical. It holds so much beauty. From Christian Laettner’s famous shot to George Mason, a No. 11 seed, making a run to the Final Four to Butler making back-to-back title games to Chris Webber calling timeout when no timeouts were left, the NCAA tournament has created some of the most shocking, bizarre, pull-your-hair-out moments in the history of, well, sports.

It is the one tournament in which any team truly has a chance to win it all. It is the one tournament in which the overall No. 1 seed can go down in as early as the second round. It is a tournament that is home of buzzer-beaters, miracles and entertainment at its finest.

In the spirit of the 2017 version of the NCAA tournament being on the horizon, we have compiled stages we all go through while watching a March Madness game. Enjoy, and get ready for these March Madness stages to come raining down yet again in a few days.

Pre-Stage: First Things First, Time To Make The Infamous Phone Call

It’s Wednesday night, and the first round of the tournament (minus the play-in games that have already taken place — and blew our minds, of course) begins on Thursday. You are debating if you should call in sick now, wait until the morning of the Big Dance or fake sick (elementary school style) halfway through Thursday.

Nonetheless, when the NCAA tournament is nearing, this thought has gone through everyone’s head: “I’m just going to call in sick and watch the first round of the dance.”

Stage 1: Joy, Glee, Pure Happiness, The Life-Doesn’t-Get-Better-Than-This Stage

It’s. Finally. Thursday. It’s game day, baby. What T-shirt are you going to wear?

What you are about to witness can’t go unseen, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Double-digit seeds knocking off tourney favorites, a shower of buzzer-beaters, future NBA stars showing off their goods out on the court, three-pointers galore and coaches screaming their heads off are about to take over your TV screen. Consider your eyes, and flat screen, lucky.

Pick your favorite spot on the couch, and start firing up those food apps, because watching college hoops is about to become your life for the next couple of weekends.

Stage 2: The Pump-The-Brakes Stage

Yes, the NCAA tournament is nicknamed March Madness for a reason — because chaos takes over the college basketball scene once the calendar turns over to March — but why am I cheering for a mid-major that is playing the powerhouse that I have inked in for a spot in the Final Four?

It’s time to pump the brakes and get those priorities straight. It’s all about winning the office bracket pool, even if it means cheering against your alma mater, right? Okay, so if you are like most college basketball fans, then you likely took your alma mater, who is making the tournament for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, to at least the Sweet 16. Still, at this point in the tournament (you know, the beginning), it’s all about the bracket. Until a loss occurs, you have the perfect bracket.

Stage 3: Halftime — It’s Time To Make Some Adjustments

If this top seed loses, my bracket is finished. Finished!

14-seed Mercer (there is an unknown team every year that makes some noise) might be the Cinderella story to end all Cinderella stories, but [fill in the blank] is my team. This squad has three future NBAers, the coach has Hall of Fame written all over him, and it is up to me, as a March Madness fan, to cheer them into the Final Four.

The stars will align, and my title pick will bounce back to a double-digit victory.

Great halftime speech. Now let’s get back to the action.

Stage 4: Denial, Denial, Denial

There’s no way this unknown mid-major is going to knock off my team. The experts said they were a lock for the Elite Eight, so how are they down by five with only 10 minutes to go in the second half?

Surely, the coach will continue to make adjustments, and the star player, who is going to get drafted in the NBA lottery, will start draining threes like it is his job. There’s no way my champion pick, who is a No. 3 seed, is going down to a No. 14 seed…

Stage 5: The I-Can’t-Believe-What-Just-Happened Stage

For a minute, you just sit there. You’re not mad. You’re just confused. You can’t believe what you just witnessed. You can’t believe a No. 14 seed not only knocked off a No. 3 seed, but said No. 3 seed was a team that you picked to win the dance. Your bracket is ruined, your hopes and dreams dashed, and there is nothing you can do about it.

So you pick up the phone and then start texting all of your friends the saddening news.

March Madness has arrived, and it is up to its same old tricks.

Stage 6: A Sense Of Understanding And Respect For The Tournament

So this is why it’s called March Madness. Because records, rankings and favorites tend to go out the window.

Yes, my bracket is ruined, you think … and only three games have been played, but everyone took [fill in the blank] to at least the Sweet 16, right? This mid-major/Cinderella/destroyer of my bracket is the real deal. My bracket is toast, but I get it — anything can happen in this tournament.
Now let’s go watch a No. 16 seed, for the first time ever, knock off a No. 1 seed. Bring on the madness and call-in-sick days!

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