Monday, March 17, 2008

The Brackettville Racket

I am not sure just how long this Bracketville racket has been around. It probably started when the NCAA expanded to 64 teams for their basketball championship tournament. Unlike the Bowl Championship tournaments, where you have to be one of the big dogs to enjoy it, millions of people who went to colleges, no matter how small, all over the country, get wound up about the brackets. Some, like my partner Matt Ryan, take their picks very seriously because they know a lot about basketball. Matt will actually do some studying up on all of this and make informed and intelligent picks. But he will not win. No one with much sense ever wins these things. I have won twice, in 1989 and last year. Last year was exciting until my friend who  was holding the money had it stolen. I honestly expect to finish at the very bottom this year. That is how it goes. It is like a coin flip. There are just too many variables for skill to enter into the picture. On the flip side, since skill does not enter the picture, I sometimes have a chance.

 

Business place gambling is alleged to cost the economy 80 gagillion dollars a year, or some such number, I forget how much, but it is absurdly high. What’s worse is that people act like that is a bad thing. Frankly, if the office staff was not goofing off filling out brackets, they’d be goofing off doing something else, maybe blogging. I think these down time studies that “Industrial Engineers” (don’t get me started on them) do, presuppose that the American Economy works like one of those Chinese sweat shops you see on Sixty Minutes, where people work 16 hours a day, sleep at their desks, and then wake up and do it all over again. That’s not how America works. Office pools and gambling are an understood part of the U.S. lifestyle. They are figured into productivity, just like lunch is. It is true that if no one ever ate, our country would have a more efficient work force, but what fun would that be ?

 

 

My initial  foray into gambling took place in 1963-64 when my Uncle Earl game me a mini-roulette wheel. I cleaned up with that at lunchtime in the fifth grade. Until it was taken away from me. That same year I entered into big time sports gambling when I took bets on the Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston championship fight. I took several dollars in bets (mostly at a quarter a piece), with every one of the bettors betting on Liston. It hit me at some point that if Liston won, I would not have any money to pay back the bets and I had a couple of sleepless nights over that prospect. But Sonny did not answer the bell for the 7th round, and I got to keep all of my ill gotten gains. That, however, was the last time I acted as a bookie. It was several years later, when I learned about “odds” and “lay off men”, that I finally understood how a bookie could stay in business (and alive).My betting has been confined pretty much to office pools since then, and when I have strayed from that pattern the results have been awful.

 

 

But I can guarantee you a couple of things this year, if you want to make some money. Texas will win the Southern Regional, and North Carolina will win the championship. Outside of those two certainties, you are on your own.

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