work_183March Madness kicks off Tuesday, but not the college basketball one that depletes millions and millions of productivity from the American worker.  The March Madness I’m referring to is of a higher calling — the Conclave where the College of Cardinals meets to select the next Pope.

For the record I’m not now, nor have I ever been Catholic; nevertheless, the whole process is fascinating to me.  As a non-member of the Church it is more like a presidential election for me as a news and political junkie I am sucked in.  What I find most fascinating, however, is how this election for a world leader is conducted without months and months of name calling, back stabbing, assigning blame, and deliberate obstruction of fact — and I’m just talking about my friends on Facebook!

Honestly, if I could, I’d be glued to the TV for the next several days while to watch the proceedings, waiting for that tell-tale puff of white smoke, like a white flag of surrender after a Rand Paul filibuster, signaling the end of the Conclave.

If you’ve listened to The Sideliners Show, which I co-host (when we’re not on hiatus) we typically make pre-season predictions for the Superbowl and MLB.  Fresh off my second correct Superbowl prediction in 4 years, I thought about trying my hand at Pope-predicting.  But seeing that I’m not Catholic and only “know” 2 of the 115 Cardinals in the Conclave I thought I’d dial down the cockiness a notch and not tarnish my good record of predictions.

I thought about handicapping the Cardinals to give betting odds on who will “win.”  But there is still the issue of not really knowing the Cardinals well enough to handicap them; besides there are actual betting sites that have the lines covered for you.   Besides, there is something dirty and wrong about placing bets on who will assume the role of God on Earth.  Look at me, I’m not even Catholic and I still feel guilty!

Papal March MadnessA fun (and safe) way to enjoy the Conclave this month is a Pope March Madness bracket.  I don’t have to actually know much about the Cardinals to give you the top 16, or the Sweet Sistine as it were!  And I don’t have to feel guilty about betting on who will be the next Holy Vicar — what you do with it is between you and God and whomever you confess to.

Again, I’d hate to ruin my good prediction streak but I think there’s a good chance it’s going to come down to an Italian Cardinal, since it’s been over 100 years since an Italian was selected to be Pope, or a Cardinal from Latin America, where the Catholic Church boasts the majority of its members.  The two top choices from the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NY and Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley are both relative long shots, although I personally think it would be a shame if someone name Sean Patrick O’Malley wasn’t elected Pope!

So get your office pool together a little early for another kind of March Madness, which seems a little less mad when compared to the election cycle for President of the United States!

Happy Conclave everyone!