It's oh-so-easy to predict office pool winner

March 13, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD

Call it our little way of sticking it to The Man.

It begins today in workplaces all over this great nation, with a ritual as old as time, or at least Dick Vitale.

Someone taps on your cubicle and hands you a sheet of white paper fresh from the copier.

The sheet contains all these weird brackets, atop which are names like Duke and Connecticut, Texas and Villanova, UCLA and Gonzaga.

"Five bucks to get in," whispers this junior John Gotti, turning to leave. "Turn it in by Wednesday."

You nod silently.

With a sweep of your arm, you push all the clutter on your desk to one side.

You put down the sheet of paper. You pull out a pen.

Time to blow off work for a while.

Time to fill out your entry in the NCAA basketball tournament office pool.

And you're hardly alone.

Listen hard enough and you can almost hear the giant gears of American economic productivity grinding to a halt, as hundreds of thousands of your fellow workforce drones fill out their entries and stick it to The Man along with you.

People talk about the week between Christmas and New Year's Day as the Dead Zone of workforce production?

Ha!

Try getting something done in the office for the next three weeks, as everyone on staff takes two-hour lunch breaks at a local bar to watch a key game in the East Regional, or logs onto ESPN's Web site every five minutes for scores and updates.

Why do we do this every year?

That's easy: because we love sticking it to The Man.

We love goofing off at work.

And because the stakes are high! Pick more winners than anyone else and maybe you win a few hundred bucks, not to mention bragging rights as the office college basketball wiz.

But here is the beauty of the NCAA office pool: any knucklehead can win it.

Ed in accounting, Doris in sales, Tanya in HR, Jason in maintenance, they all have a shot.

The most clueless-about-basketball geek in IT, he has a shot.

The strange little camo-wearing gearhead in transportation who lives in a cabin wallpapered with NASCAR stickers somewhere out on Ted Kaczynski Lane in the middle of nowhere, a guy who couldn't even tell you who the president is, never mind J.J. Redick -- even he has a shot.

See, actual knowledge of college basketball almost never pays off in the NCAA office pool.

In fact, your 20-something hotshot co-worker with the satellite dish who watches eight games a night and pores over the statistics in the paper each day and is always telling you what a college basketball genius he is?

He has no shot of winning.

None. Zip. Zilch.

He can watch games till he's bleary-eyed, crunch all the numbers he wants, painstakingly evaluate each team for strength of schedule, analyze how this top seed did against that top seed in head-to-head match-ups since the Civil War.

None of it will help. He'll over-think the whole thing. He'll be a crash-and-burn by the second round.

But Doris in sales?

Doris who has seen two college basketball games in her whole life, the last one 20 years ago?

Doris who will fill her brackets based on how a college's name sounds to her and what geographic regions she prefers and what her 9-year-old nephew thinks?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winnah!

Put your hands together, fellow drones, for Doris in sales!

Oh, yeah, the Dorises of the world will kick butt in your NCAA office pool.

You think life is cruel?

The NCAA office pool is crueler.

All the things you've done throughout your life to prepare for a project - research, study, preparation, etc. - none will help you with this pool.

So don't even bother.

What about a fan's gut instinct, basketball intuition, a feel for whether a team is peaking or declining as the tournament begins?

Nah, none of that will help you, either.

Only blind luck helps you win the NCAA office pool.

Or call it fate, call it kismet, call it the Revenge of The Man.

The fact is: Doris in sales will win.

You might as well hand her the money right now.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To listen to podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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