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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Do Secretaries Really Have a Better Strategy?

True story: Every year my father joins one of many NCAA pools with his lifelong friends. Out of sheer enjoyment (to prove superiority) most of the men in the pool cough up and extra $40 to enter a bracket for their wives. Not my father. Oh sure, my mom can add her bracket to the mix – humor the little woman, after all – but he wasn’t about to throw away 40 of his hard-earned dollars. Frugality was key with my father, and my mother, I’ll attest, knows nothing about college basketball. But this was 1999, and she did know one thing: Kevin Freeman. At the time a junior forward for UConn, Freeman was a high school basketball teammate of my older brother. He’d been to the house, I was friends with his younger brother, my mother always said he was “a nice boy,” and for these reasons alone, UConn was going to take the title.

I remember that tournament well, particularly going home from college for a Madness party my parents were throwing. It was the weekend of the Elite 8 and my father all but swallowed his tongue as his brackets exploded. When the night was all said and done, John, the holder of all things tournament, filtered through the papers to calculate who was in the lead. You know where I’m headed with this.

My mother, knowing nothing save Kevin Freeman and a fine fashion sense, was the only person with her Final Four still in tact. She was also the sole person with UConn beating Duke for the Championship. Laugh as everyone did at the time, my mother went on to win that pool. And my father has entered money for her ever since.

So when I came across Pat Forde's column on ESPN.com earlier this week, I laughed, reminiscing, as I read his opening words: “It’s now time for those of us who have been living and dying with every dribble since November to look on in disgust as the office pools are won by secretaries who make their picks based on team colors.” And then I got to thinking (which is rare, so pay attention): How would I fair if I actually picked my brackets based solely on my favorite colors? I mean, if the secretaries win so often, as bitter fanatics seem to claim, why don’t I just toss all caution and confidence to the side and pick my favorite color to win? So, that’s exactly what I did. (Note: I had my Champion immediately: There is no way any color can beat out that Longhorn orange, I’m sorry, but it’s science.)

As I sat down to peruse the bracket for the first time, I cringed knowing that I was going to have to eliminate Florida in the first round. Honestly, I didn’t think anything could be worse than the blue-green-orange combo, and I was just hoping that things would even out down the road. But then I looked up Jackson State’s colors to find they look like blue and red dry erase markers. I’m pleased to say that Florida pulled off the first-round upset to advance.

Disciplining myself to base picks on colors was a chore at first, but after finding my stride I found myself getting irritated that I had to pick Southern Illinois over Holy Cross. I’m all for maroon (that color looks awesome on me), but their fucking mascot’s Falkor from The Neverending Story. Seriously. They advanced, though, so I’m okay with it so far.

To be all “scientific” about this, I knew I needed a control group or something or other, so to reference, and to hopefully win money, I filled out what I’m calling my “Official” bracket. I wanted to be able to compare my round-by-round color results with my actual knowledge-based picks. And after the first round, I have to say I’m not doing all that bad.

In my Official bracket I walked away pretty unscathed: I lost 7 picks, all of which I had exiting the second round anyway, so I’m still in pretty good shape (especially since my father and brother both had 6 losses after Thursday alone. I’m smrt, smart). In my Secretary bracket, 8 of my teams are out, a few of which could really hurt me. I’m banking on things evening out as we move along, but with this tournament, you never can be sure of anything.

So we have a few weeks to go before I can determine which is better: my basketball knowledge or my color palette. So stay tuned (and go Purdue!).

Read more!


MCBias said...

Wow, one of the great questions of our time, solved by a blogger. I'm so proud to be a reader now. Can I get some of that Nobel Prize money? :-p

Anonymous said...

Since you have Texas, I'm going to say the answer is "no."