Bracketology extends its borders, generosity

March 23, 2007|By RICK MAESE

I've stopped checking on my NCAA tournament brackets. Lesson learned for next year: Don't pick 16 George Masons to advance this far. But I haven't given up. No, I have a plan to recoup my losses - and then some.

My Sweet 16 bracket tournament is going to be fun, exciting and incredibly lucrative. To make up for throwing my money away on earlier pools, though, the entry fee into this one is a bit steep - $3 million - which limits the family and friends who are able to play. While I wait for Oprah, A-Rod and Michael Bloomberg to return my messages, I think I've got one entrant nailed down.

She actually contacted me first, via e-mail just last week.

"I am MS. SANDRA MORGAN, Secretary Wife and Personal Assistant to former Liberian Rebel Leader Charles Taylor now standing trial for war crime," she wrote. "In this capacity, we committed a lot of crimes and atrocities against humanity and God. Although, am now a Christian convert in my new base in Cote D'Ivoire, but diagnosed of terminal disease ...

"I diverted the sum of five million, five hundred thousand US Dollars [$5.5M]. The fund is presently deposited in a finance company in EUROPE for security reasons ... "

I'm not sure if it was her faith in God, the predicament her husband faces or the $5.5 million, but I was touched by Ms. Sandra Morgan's e-mail. So I wrote her back.

"Sandy,

"Greetings and thank you for your correspondence. I'm glad that we have been brought together via electronical mailings. First, my apologies for the plight of your family and countrymen. May your husband find victory in court as he has in life. Second, I'm sorry you must carry this burden of five million, five hundred thousand US Dollars ($5.5M). I am a fan of American professional sports and have seen exactly what such large sums can do to people. If I can be so bold, I have a suggestion:

"Because the unpredictable nature of scholastic sports in my country, our brackets were busted days ago. So, I am running a Sweet 16 pool, and we think this might be a wise investment for your money. We have two remaining spots in our pool and each entry costs $3M US Dollars. Fortunately, I will allow you two entries for $5.5M US Dollars. How fortuitous!

"So, if you could kindly send me your bank account information and I can have my people make the appropriate transfer. Then, two weeks from today, we will have raised enough money perhaps to buy off the infidel court system and save your husband forever. I look forward to hearing from you."

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I definitely felt the desperation of a sports gambler. And the hope of someone about to get rich. The next day, Ms. Sandra Morgan responded:

"Dear Beloved One,

"Thanks for the mail. Besides, i have taken note of your mail. Dear before anythings Aheard. You should answer these questions in your next mail for me to be completely rest assured that you are really capable to handle this noble transaction together with me. (i) How old are you? (ii) What do you do for a living? (iii) Do you have a church of your own where you are going to invest my donation fund? (iv) Can you be able to assist financially in this transaction?

"God bless you and as you receive give God the glory,

"Ms. Morgan"

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this e-mail. This sounded more like a questionnaire for an online dating service than a basketball pool. But a lot of money was involved, and I was feeling pretty good about my revised bracket, so I responded.

"Sandy,

"I have a few questions, too. Have you ever participated in a basketball pool? Because all of your queries are quite irrelevant. It's a pain-free transaction. I am proud and humbled that you believe in the power of prayer. I especially rely on prayer in the month of March, and pray now that you'll invest in our pool. The riches and glory will be magnificent.

"A tip for when you fill out your bracket: Duke is considered to be an unbelievable basketball power in my country. As are the Knickerbockers of New York. You are encouraged to pick them to win as many of the remaining NCAA tournament games as you see fit. Just a hint ... "

I haven't heard back from Ms. Sandra Morgan again. I assume she's studying the bracket and getting the money in order. While I wait, I've decided to e-mail her every hour of every day, to let her know about this great moneymaking opportunity that I've presented to her and to remind her how important I consider her urgent response.

"I hope you're not questioning the authenticity of my offer," my latest e-mail read. "In my country, this is perfectly acceptable. As long as someone walks away with money, it's not a scam. Unless that someone is anyone other than me, of course."

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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