Monday, March 14, 2005


I remember hearing my high school French teacher remark that the economy of France suffers hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of lost productivity each year due to work slowdowns during the Tour de France. Billions by now, I'm sure. A strong case could be made that it's a good trade-off, a few points of GDP in exchange for a folk-culture tradition that people feel passionately about. I think about my French teacher every year at this time, as I spend a few prime work hours puzzling over the NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets. (Actually, between the NCAAs and fantasy baseball draft season, mid-March is a doubly unproductive time.)

I won the office pool once, several years ago. (Cue Springsteen's "Glory Days" in the background.) There were quite a few foreigners in my former office, ignorant of basketball, yet enthusiastic about tossing $5 into the kitty. They were eager to take part in this American workplace ritual; they had something to prove; they wanted to fit in. They were pigeons.

Unfortunately, I'm not as up to date as I used to be, and my current workplace has a core of people who know their basketball. But the memory of my past triumph lingers. Moreover, the whole NCAA tournament pool phenomenon aggravates one of my less attractive personality traits: the love of being proved right, of showing my expertise, no matter how trivial the topic. Not only will I spend more time filling out the bracket than any adult should, wanting to win more than any adult should. I also have a paradoxical urge to predict stunning upsets. Alabama's sneakers are ill-suited for the court surface in Cleveland! The clever student-athletes of Bucknell will build a dossier on Kansas's star player's mother, making for devastatingly effective trash talk! This sort of thing.

My research today yielded the following information. West Virginia plays Creighton in Round One on Thursday. West Virginia's best players are named Johannes Herder and Kevin Pittsnogle. Creighton's best player is named Nate Funk. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

No comments: