What is this madness?

If you’re new here, you might imagine this whole thing is a barbaric, Hunger Games-style, gladiatorial contest pitting friends against each other in a battle to the death. Or maybe you’re just curious what this is all about and why some people would put so much work and energy into it.

Friendship Madness is not really about me seeding my friends and sicking them against each other in a contest for who gets to be my “best friend.”

I created this little tourney not with me in mind but with you, my dearest friends. Friendship Madness is and always has been completely about the friendships — mine with you and yours with each other. It’s a little break from the stresses and strains of life when we can all gather for a friendly contest that functions more as a facilitator for interactions each year.

But you want to win, also.

We know sports of all kinds are better when you have something at stake; that’s why we choose sides, form allegiances, establish rivalries and let games make or break our days.

I wanted Friendship Madness to be more fulfilling for my friends in a system in which the specific tournament teams held no influence over whether it would be a fun one to watch. I wanted meaningful excuses for us to cheer for teams we’ve never cheered for before, care about as many rounds as possible (even if our favorite team lost in the first) and make the tournament as interactive for all as possible by making it personal.

And I discovered how. By giving you an arbitrary goal (“best friend”) and seeding you in regions with marquee matchups in mind down the road, Friendship Madness provides you with a reason to be a fan all tournament long — if and only if you buy into its concept.

When was the last time you picked your side, cheered for your team and lost to someone else, and it didn’t break your heart? If you’re one of my avid-sports-fan friends, it’s probably been a while. Or, hopefully, it was during Friendship Madness.

That’s why the “battle for my best friend” thing is so perfect. What you’re hoping to win is not always as important as simply winning for winning’s sake, and losing when you didn’t really have anything of substance at stake is far less painful than when you do.

I could have paired any tournament with Friendship Madness and gotten a similar reward, but the one I felt would provide the biggest benefit to everyone involved put friendship at its center. I get to be the FMAA, the selection committee, the media and the award presenter all in one; you, my friends, get to be the reason for it all.

Rules

This time-honored, longstanding tradition (that started in 2011) pairs 32(ish) of my closest friends with the 64 final FMAA tournament teams (68 is lame, and I don’t do play-in games for my friendships).

Using a closely guarded scientific(ish) formula, friends are seeded one through eight and assigned to a pair of teams. A No. 1 seed gets a 1 and a 16 in different regions, a No. 2 seed gets a 2 and a 15 in different regions, etc.

Tournament seeding begins with the Friendship Percentage Index (FPI), based on the level of friendship only in the year since the last tournament (a de facto regular season, if you will). The seeding in no way reflects how I’d seed people based on the whole time I’ve known them.

Added in 2014, the Social Media Index (SMI) adjusts the seeding to place increased weight on previous and projected social media interaction in the seeding, which could elevate a lower seed (by the FPI) into an upper tier when combined.

Family members are pros and therefore ineligible for the tournament.

Social Media MVP

Added in 2013, the Social Media MVP is the second-most sought-after award of the tournament. It is presented following the title game to the person who best harnesses Twitter and Facebook during tournament play. It’s important to note: Even if you’re knocked out of the tournament, you’re still in the running for MVP. At its core, this whole mess is all about interactions anyway.

So take to the Twitterverse and tweet your support of your teams as the tournament plays out. I’m not saying brown-nosing will give you a leg up, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

May the best Friend win.