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My name is Danny O’Neil, and I’m a hater

By Danny O’Neil

I began rooting for heartbreak right around 9 p.m. on Saturday.

I’m talking about teeth-gnashing, bracket-busting disappointment. The kind that makes children in the crowd cry and grown men curse.

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When his championship pick of Arizona was knocked out of the bracket, Danny O’Neil started depending on a loss for No. 2-seeded Michigan in the Elite 8 to keep his own hopes of winning alive. (AP)

I became a fan of misery once Arizona was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Wisconsin because at that point my chances of winning the pool composed of my high-school friends went from depending on how well my picks did to how poorly their projections fared.

Don’t worry, this story isn’t about my tournament bracket. It’s about me. More accurately, it’s about the dirty little piece of coal that I sometimes mistake for a soul.

I’m a hater. That became clear Sunday afternoon when I was rooting harder for Michigan to lose than I ever cheered for Arizona to win. The Wolverines’ loss not only kept me in first place in my pool, but it showed me that it’s not as important for me to be right as it is for others to be more wrong.

It also made me wonder why.

Maybe it was because the university I attended, the one I cheer for, was not in the field, Washington having missed the tournament for a third successive year. Or perhaps it was the years spent working in press boxes across a number of sports where cheering is forbidden, objectivity is the goal and cynicism reigns.

But all that is just a way of me trying to justify how much satisfaction and enjoyment I can draw from results that bring misery to others like Oklahoma City, for instance.

My dislike of the Thunder borders on pathological, especially when you consider the fact the Sonics were never my favorite NBA team. Not since I grew up in Oregon with a mild affection for the Trail Blazers before moving to Northern California and becoming a Golden State Warriors fan.

Yet over the past three years, I think I’ve rooted harder against the Thunder than I have for any other team. Like 2011, when I wrote this for The Seattle Times. Or 2012, when I wrote this.

See? I’m ugly on the inside.

And while I don’t feel great about Saturday’s discovery of just how much I like rooting against other teams, I don’t feel bad enough to reconsider this approach, either.

And when Florida plays UConn in the Final Four on Saturday, I won’t be cheering for the Huskies nearly so much as I’m rooting against the Gators. I’ve got a one-point lead in my bracket pool, and if Florida loses, I win.

You know what that means? Pass the Haterade, because I’m hoping for heartbreak in Gainesville, Fla., and I’m not making any apologies for it. In fact, I kind of prefer it this way.