[The Roman Senate is gathered at the Curia Pompeia, the senate house of the Roman Republic. The Roman general MARK ANTONY addresses the group.]

MARK ANTONY: Friends, Romans, co-workers, lend me your ears! It is once again time to enter the senate office pool for the annual Tournament of Gladiators. Sixty-eight teams from around the empire will compete, single-elimination (losers die) for the coveted City-State Championship Trophy. There are many exciting matchups to keep an eye on this year. Will the number VII seed Spartans go all the way, or will the number X seed Trojans be the tournament spoilers? Only time will tell…

[Two of the Romans, CASSIUS and BRUTUS, whisper to each other as Mark Antony gives his speech.]

CASSIUS: My money is on the Spartans.

BRUTUS: Oh please, the Spartans couldn’t land a death blow down the stretch if their lives depended on it, which they do.

CASSIUS: Yes, but their shielding is unparalleled. You know what they say: defense wins championships.

BRUTUS: Well, it doesn’t matter. You know who is probably going to beat us all again anyway.

MARK ANTONY:… As is tradition, last year’s office pool winner will be the first to submit their bracket. Come on up here, Jules…

[JULIUS CAESAR, a two-time office pool winner, who was generally disliked among his fellow senators for never refilling the wine carafe in the break room when it was empty and for occasionally killing his political rivals, walks up to the podium.]

CASSIUS: I swear to the gods, if he wins again this year…

BRUTUS: You thinking what I’m thinking?

[Cassius nods.]

JULIUS: (submitting his bracket)The die is cast, fuckheads!

[The remaining senators submit their brackets one by one and gradually disperse. Julius Caesar leaves the Curia Pompeia and walks past a SOOTHSAYER, an elderly beggar wearing a tattered Spartans jersey.]

SOOTHSAYER: Beware the Madness of March!

JULIUS: Whatever, lady. We only bet, like, ten denarii each.

- - -

[Weeks later, Julius Caesar, on his way to a post-Final Four orgy, walks past the Soothsayer, who is now wearing a tattered Trojans jersey, being what some would call a fair-weather Spartans fan.]

JULIUS: The Madness of March has come. It is April now.

SOOTHSAYER: Aye, Caesar; come, but not gone. There’s still the championship match, which, admittedly, is on the third of April but is still technically considered part of the Madness of March.

JULIUS: Well, I’ve already got this one in the bag, whether the Trojans win or not.

[Julius Caesar walks off triumphantly, thinking about all of the men and women he was looking forward to seeing naked at the Final Fourgy.]

- - -

[Days later, the Roman Senate is gathered, and Mark Antony addresses the group again.]

MARK ANTONY: Ladies and gentlemen, you know him, you love him. He’s the man who puts the “tri” in triumvirate. Give it up for three-time Roman Senate Madness of March office pool winner, mister Julius Caesar!

[A half-hearted applause breaks out, along with a few audible groans.]

JULIUS: Well, what can I say? I came, I saw, I conquered…

CASSIUS: (to Brutus) How in the Hades did he win it again? I chose every bracket buster the Oracle predicted.

BRUTUS: (to Cassius) I told you the Spartans would shit the bed. Classic Spartans.

CASSIUS: Sure, but who would’ve thought Syracuse would come out of nowhere like that? I didn’t even know they were in the tournament this year, those damn Sicilians.

BRUTUS: Well, shall we?

CASSIUS: Yup, showtime.

[Cassius and Brutus look around the room for their fellow conspirators and give the signal: the Trojans’ famous “V for Victory” hand gesture, which, ironically, looks a lot like the peace sign. Cassius and the other conspirators descend on Julius Caesar, stabbing him repeatedly with chisels, scroll openers, and whatever other sharp implements they were able to find lying around the Roman Senate break room.]

MARK ANTONY: Jesus Christ, you guys, this was supposed to be a lighthearted team bonding exercise!

CASSIUS: (still stabbing) Who is Jesus Christ?

MARK ANTONY: It’s an expression. I’m just saying you people need to chill.

[Brutus lands a final stab—an iron stylus with “Empire’s Best Boss” etched in gold—straight to the heart.]

JULIUS: Et tu, Brute? The pool was, like, ten denarii each, man?

BRUTUS: It was never about the denarii. It was about the bragging rights.

[Caesar dies.]

[Outside the Curia Pompeia, the Soothsayer, now wearing a tattered Syracuse jersey, being somewhat of a fair-weather Trojans fan, wanders the streets. A group of Roman women passes her, excitedly chatting about their office pool for a competition where women from around the empire compete for the chance to marry an eligible Roman general with good looks but very little personality. The women discuss how this year’s general, Mark Antony, is falling for some Egyptian chick everyone else hates.]

SOOTHSAYER: Beware the Baccalaureate!

- - -

For a breakdown of the author’s thought process behind this piece, check out the latest edition of Carlos’ new newsletter, Shades of Greaves, here.