Right now, there’s probably someone prancing about the office bragging about how they “knew” that Bradley or Wichita State would advance to the NCAA basketball Sweet Sixteen. Worse than that guy with the Razr phone from the Verizon commercial, he’s making fake basketball shots reminding everyone how much they scoffed at his prognosticating (or that a tip sheet somehow made its way into last week’s TPS report).
But the most annoying thing about his fortuitous prognosticating is that it could very well make him very rich in a couple of weeks.
That’s the hold the NCAA basketball tournament has over this country. Sure, the basketball is exciting (and I do confess to screaming at the TV when Pacific had a lead on BC in overtime). But until March, I could care less about basketball. Unless I’m telling stories from my CYO glory days, Dr. James Naismith and his peach basket game are dead to me.
But once February ends, I suddenly need a crash course because I’ll be placing $15 and my sports-fan reputation on the line on a bracket.
Of course, I stand no chance. I stand no chance at breaking the House, either, but that doesn’t prevent me from going to the Taj on weekends. The NCAA hoops tourney’s popularity is built on gambling. Don’t get sanctimonious about the high level of play. With the number of underclassmen that leave early for the NBA, the quality of basketball has long since declined. But fewer seniors means only more upsets. More upsets means more humbled “experts” and more excitement in the office pool.
Gambling is one of two lowest common denominators to attract people to sports. The only event more heavily wagered upon than the Big Dance is the Super Bowl, and well, the cost of ads alone indicates the ratings.
(The other lowest common denominator is national pride. The Olympics makes its money when Americans equate Shaun White’s half-pipe runs with Andrew Jackson’s heroics at the Battle of New Orleans.)
The commotion generated by the basketball tournament creates an opening for the college hockey tournament. As the Big Dance enters the Sweet Sixteen, many would-be office champions are resigned to another year without a big payoff.
This does not mean they have lost the gambling bug, but simply that they have no way to channel it, at least until they get home to play PartyPoker. Therefore, it is your duty as a college hockey fan to satisfy that need. To quote Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, “There’s a better way.”
Right now, click here for printable brackets of this year’s NCAA Division I college hockey tournament After that, wait until the boss isn’t looking and xerox a couple dozen copies to circulate among the staff.
Offer your friends and co-workers another chance to demonstrate their clairvoyance. Don’t worry that this will be the first time many people have thought of the Harvard hockey team since Love Story. The point is, it’s a chance to make a friendly wager.
Suddenly, you’ll become the star of the office. As the resident college hockey guru, people will want to know if Holy Cross can actually pull off a first-round upset. For additional information, you can send the colleagues you like right here to USCHO for the latest dirt.
In addition to maximizing your chances at winning $100, you’ll be doing your part to spread the gospel of college hockey. There will definitely be someone who filled out a bracket on a lark who will then tune into CSTV and fall in love with the best game in the world. Who knows — maybe you can invite some poolmates over to watch the game on your big screen, guzzle some Miller Lites (the Frozen Four is in Milwaukee this year) and let things go from there.
While the NCAA cannot officially endorse any gambling-related activity, the commissioners of the college hockey conferences ought to be working to get Web sites to host their own tournament challenges that allow a person to make picks and then track them automatically. Forget the Frozen Four skills challenge. The real way to generate interest in this NCAA tournament is to put some money on it.
So I’ve got CC upsetting Cornell in the first round, and never pick against North Dakota in its own barn. … As for the rest, well, cough up $10 for a bracket and let’s play.