Can we pick’em or what? Probably not, but it’s good clean illegal fun

Written by on March 16, 2012 in Sports - No comments

There is a fellow named John Challenger who says that the first two days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will cost employers nationwide $175 million as employees fill out brackets and sneak a peek at games in the break room or online.

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Challenger is a principal at Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a consulting firm.

Challenger says that roughly 2.5 million workers sitting at desks and cubicles all over the United States will spend an average of 90 minutes watching games in the first two days of the NCAA tournament.

And to do this, they will use their office internet connection.

This will result in decreased productivity among the rest of the office drones, because streaming video makes everyone’s internet connection run slower.


To come up with his $175 million estimate, Challenger posits an average hourly wage of $23.29. That seems high to me for Baltimore, so I will issue my own estimate of productivity loss in the city: about a buck and a half.

Why so low, you ask?

Maryland is not even in the tournament—it will take some luck for the Terps to make the NIT, even—so in parochial Baltimore, our only rooting interest is Loyola. The Greyhounds, a 15 seed, play Ohio State, a 2 seed thanks to their flat play against Michigan State on Sunday. And that game does not start until around 10 p.m. Thursday, which for most of us is our own time.

Just about everyone who works for a company large enough to have 67 or more employees has a pool. Drop a buck, or five bucks, into a hat and pull a name. If your team makes the Final Four, you get a little money. If your team wins the whole shebang, you get a lot.

If your company doesn’t have a pool, chances are your neighborhood bar will.

All of this is, strictly speaking, illegal under the laws of the State of Maryland, but it’s not as if anyone in authority takes any notice of it. Heck, many of them are in a pool.

Ask around and you won’t get anyone who wants to be quoted by name, but cops and prosecutors alike say that they can’t remember the last time there were any arrests for your basic office or bar pool. “In a pool, the money goes to the winner and you don’t have anyone collecting the vig (profit margin that always goes to the bookie) for it. So it’s not OK, but it’s OK,” said one.

In other words, if your company does not employ a leg-breaker to collect the losses, you’re good to go. And corner bars probably need to be more discreet about their pools than offices do. (Years ago—back around the time the Orioles won the World Series—a liquor inspector won the Super Bowl pool at a well-known midtown bar, but he is now retired and it was another era.)

Here at The Guide we don’t have enough people to put together a pool for the Final Four, let alone the whole tournament. So we have entered the Yahoo! Sports bracket contest. We’re the Fightin’ Hons. We will keep you informed at our lack of progress (we’re usually out of the money by midnight Saturday) but if you want you can follow along at

Best bracket wins $10,000. We’re not holding our breath, though, because our coin flip picked Davidson over Louisville. Chances are good we’ll be out of it by midnight Friday.

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