SIDELINES: NCAA Tournament is must-see-TV, it's a shame I'm too sick to work

The 2013 NCAA Division I Men
The 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament kicks off Thursday morning and concludes with the Final Four in Atlanta.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The opening two days of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament are the best 48 hours of television for any sports fan, bar none. There is no better drama.

It's must-see TV, meaning there's no way that I can't be propped on a bar stool somewhere. But to accomplish the goal of joining my buddies at a tavern for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, I know I've got some work to do.

And like with anything in life, you have to have some direction. You have to set a goal and come up with a plan to reach that goal. So that's just what I've done.

Over the last week, I have been working on an intricate scheme that basically centers on me calling in sick during the opening two days of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday and Friday. It all started Monday morning, when I came into the office complaining of a tickle in the back of my throat and threw out several loud, hacking coughs throughout the day.

The act continued Tuesday when I made sure everyone noticed when I walked into the office with a box of Kleenex. I blew my nose multiple times and stepped up my cough to every five minutes, making sure to disturb everyone in the office.

Wednesday was even more disruptive. Nose blowing and coughing continued, but I took the act even further. I added a sciatic nerve injury that was caused by a coughing episode Tuesday night. The fake back injury caused me to walk around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I also made sure everyone heard that my kids had also caught "the bug" and were sent home from school by the nurse.

The plan worked to perfection and would be something Daniel Day Lewis and the Academy Awards need to take notice of. The only problem now is that everybody in Federal Way, including my boss, knows my NCAA Tournament strategy.

I hope I still have a job Monday morning. But, in my mind, I'm doing everyone in the office a favor by calling in sick. It saves the distraction of hearing me yelling at my computer screen while watching games all day long.

A survey released recently by job outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas found that the NCAA Tournament will cost companies $134 million in just the first two days (Thursday and Friday) of the tournament. An estimated 3 million U.S. employees will spend one to three hours at work watching the games, and two-thirds of all workers will follow the tournament at some point during work hours.

The checking of scores can be directly traced back to a small 8x11 piece of paper — the NCAA Tournament bracket. This week, millions of men, women and children have filled out brackets with the goal of picking every game correctly.

Obviously, I'm no different. In fact, my boss, publisher Rudi Alcott (who just happens to be the best boss in the world. See paragraphs above), approached me about a friendly, non-illegal competition between the two of us and our NCAA Tournament brackets. Obviously, I accepted, and will provide updates on The Mirror's website throughout the tournament.

Rudi grew up in Indiana. Therefore, he thinks he knows everything about college basketball. Despite not even attending perennial power Indiana University, his office is blanketed with a Hoosier throw rug. The rug just happened to magically appear last year when Indiana started getting good again after not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament during a three-year stretch (bandwagon jumper?).

I actually attended Gonzaga University and have a degree to prove it. Therefore, I have the unalienable right to root for the Zags and nobody can make fun of me if I want to include a Gonzaga throw rug in my cubicle's decor.

How could I not accept the friendly wager? I spend my day, between fake coughs and nose blows, scouring the Internet, searching for scouting reports on all 68 teams. My life revolves around sports, while Rudi's life revolves around making sure the Federal Way Mirror makes money and that we all keep our jobs.

But knowing the ins and outs of college basketball will most likely lead to me losing the bet. That's just how it works. It's why the secretary, who knows nothing about the NCAA Tournament, wins the office pool every year.

With that in mind, I asked the two ladies who sell advertising (Cindy Ducich and Karen Henry) at The Mirror to join our bracket competition because it's essentially a crap shoot.

"Oh, I love the Wichita State Wheat Shockers," they say. "That name is so cool. And I'm pretty sure Duke is always good. I also read somewhere that blue has been the school color of 24 of the 40 teams to make the Final Four during the last 10 years, and the color blue has been worn by the last nine national champions."

University of Cincinnati Professor Michael Magazine teaches a new class called Bracketology. There, 33 business students are spending the semester trying to make sense of the art of filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket.

I can already tell them that the class will conclude that filling out an NCAA bracket doesn't make any sense at all and that's what makes it so much fun.

According to the website, if you fill out your bracket by picking the better-seeded team in every game, the odds of that bracket being perfect are more than 35,000,000,000-to-1. In total, there are more than 9.2 quintillion combinations to any NCAA Tournament bracket.

That's why the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is must-see-TV and well worth spending a week attempting to earn an Academy Award with a fake cough, coupled with a back injury.

Go Zags.


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