How to Lose Five Dollars

Beware the Ides of March.  I just thought I’d say that.  How often do a) the Ides of March fall on a Thursday, the day I usually post here and b) I actually remember it’s the Ides of March?

Less than a week until the end of winter and it’s warm and sunny, supposed to approach 80 degrees here this weekend, but no sermon on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide equivalents (for now).

No, today is also the beginning of (the second round of) the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament.  I’ve got my computer set up so I can check scores this afternoon during the monthly staff meeting.  (I have the NY Times crossword handy too, just in case.)

I’m not a huge follower of college basketball, but I participate in this pool every year, because it’s only five dollars, because I like the challenge of, essentially, trying to pass a test for which I have not studied and because it gives me something to do during at least one staff meeting a year.

Another reason is because my neighbor Margaret is one of the few people in our neighborhood who has cable tee vee.  I know this flies in the face of most American neighborhoods and certainly displeases a teenager of my significant acquaintance, but the point is that Margaret generously allows the whole horde to trample through her sitting room for the Super Bowl, World Series, US Open, NCAAs, Oscars, Emmys, etc. etc. (Not that everyone views everything.)  The local version of the tourney is called “Marg’s Madness.”

Every year at this specific time, I’m struck by the baseless feeling of confidence I have once I’ve made my bracket choices.  I do a bit of homework, Googling search terms like “upset,” but mostly I make uneducated guesses.  (I’m absolutely heartless about this.  I even picked my alma mater to lose its first game.)  Once this is done, I start to wonder how often someone has predicted a perfect bracket, the idea being that I’ve just managed to do just that.

The operative word in the paragraph above is “baseless.”  This is what sells lottery tickets.  I think evolutionary biologists need to get busy figuring out what biochemical my body secretes (endorphins, serotonin?) that make me think – against all available evidence – that I will win this year’s office pool.  (There were a few years in the early ‘90s when I would consistently finish second to rabid hoops fan and seasoned prognosticator Venola Johnson, but have I ever won the whole thing?  No.)

Let me give you an example.  This year’s pool covers 64 teams and excludes the eight-team “play-ins” that preceded the start of today’s action.  Just for fun and to help determine which teams I’d pick in the round of 64, I picked all four games, three of them incorrectly.

Am I discouraged?  Hell no.  As I see it, I’m bound to make some bad calls; I really don’t expect to pick a perfect bracket nor do I need to take first place in the office pool.  By making three bad calls of four in the play-ins, I’m using up my bad calls on games that don’t count.

Does that make sense?  Not a bit.  Do I still feel unjustifiably confident?  You bet (or more accurately, I bet).

(n.b. – As I post – or post up – I’ve got two wins and one lead under my belt, but Montana better get their act together.  Update next week.)

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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