Say you’re the junior senator from Florida, it’s late Friday night, and you’re voting on a long list of budget amendments. It’s prime viewing time for the first round of the NCAA tournament, and you want to know how your bracket has fared. What do you do?
Just sneak a peek at the TV, along with the rest of your Senate colleagues.
“Everybody was in the Cloak Room watching the games in between the votes,” Sen. Marco Rubio told ABC News, recounting the scene in an ante-room off the Senate floor as the upper chamber held its late-night “Vote-a-Rama” on 40 amendments, resolutions and motions between noon Friday and 4:30 a.m. Saturday. ”You have 10 minutes between votes, so [you] go vote and you come back in, and everybody’s watching the Georgetown game.”
For college basketball fans, late March is the best time of the year. Rubio joined in the Madness, releasing a bracket through his political organization, Reclaim America PAC. Unlike President Obama, who picked mostly favorites, Rubio’s bracket was filled with upsets.
But don’t expect him to root for this year’s Cinderella.
“I think Florida Gulf Coast has ruined everyone’s bracket,” Rubio told ABC, joking that he should have picked the Eagles’ upsets, given that he’s the senator from Florida and all.
Florida Gulf Coast University (15) defeated Georgetown (2) before the senators gathered in the Cloak Room, becoming the first 15-seed ever to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. But although they hail from Rubio’s home state, he’s pulling for his undergraduate alma mater–the University of Florida (3)–when the two teams square off this Friday.
“They’re fully capable of winning that game,” he said of Florida Gulf Coast’s matchup with his Gators.
“That’s a game where I can’t lose, right? Whoever wins, wins. I want Florida to win, but it’s hard to root against those guys from Gulf Coast ’cause of what they’re doing. I would say that the only think I would tell you is that the Florida teams are more aware of them than everybody else,” Rubio said.
“Miami (1) lost to Florida Gulf Coast (back in November), and they got beat up over that. People were making fun of them, ‘How could you lose to those guys?’ And their attitude about it was, ‘Wait till you see them play–that’s a good team.’ So now people are realizing that. If you’re in Florida, you know the University of Florida, you’re aware of those guys. Miami’s aware of those guys, so to them it’s not as surprising,” Rubio said.
A graduate of Florida and the University of Miami law school, Rubio stays true to the Gators. This year, he’s predicted Florida will beat Miami in the Final Four.
“I don’t root against Miami,” Rubio said. “All things being equal, I want them to win. I’m a Florida fan, but if they have to play against each other, I know who I’m for.”
Rubio hasn’t been able to watch many games this year–his only “extensive” tournament viewing, ironically, happened during the late-night votes–but he explained his bracketological philosophy to ABC News.
“The problem with the tournament is, first of all, you’re dealing with 18- and 19-year-old kids, so the likelihood of them walking into a place and underestimating the other team they’re playing against, like a Harvard or like a Florida Gulf Coast, is high,” Rubio said. “Number two, it’s winner take all. It’s not like a series. If you have a five- or seven-game series, usually the cream will rise to the top in something like that, but one night, in one game, anything can happen, especially in a streaky game like basketball where someone goes nuts and starts hitting every shot.”
The advent of “one-and-done” programs, like the University of Kentucky, has not been lost on the Florida senator. “Most of the teams are freshman and sophomore teams, sometimes redshirt sophomore teams, ’cause the good guys are heading to the pros fairly quickly,” Rubio said. “So there’s no continuity.”
Rubio says he’s not in a bracket pool this year. Good thing, too, because Forbes recently noted that some NCAA pools appear to violate federal laws.
“I’ve done them in the past. I’ve never won one,” Rubio said. “It’s almost like betting on horses, in the sense that you think you know what you know, and there’s some stuff to study, but you just can never predict, and there’s almost always a Cinderella team. Without fail, every year gives you some team that makes it to the 16, maybe even to the eight, that wasn’t supposed to get there.”