The Five People of Office Pools
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
Selection Sunday — that magical day in March when the NCAA tournament bracket is released to the eager public and when men and women of all ages, from President Obama to the first-grader down the street, come together for a month of gambling — has come and gone.
Oh, there’s basketball too, of course, but (I hate to break it to you) the madness of March is more about the gambling than anything else. After all, anyone with a pen and $10 can enter a bracket pool and have a shot at winning some cash.
Because everyone has the chance to be a part of the madness, everyone also runs the risk of being “that guy” (or girl) who won’t be invited back to participate in next year’s tourney pool. So, if you plan to enter a bracket in an NCAA tournament pool in the coming weeks, pay close attention to these common stereotypes so as to avoid becoming one yourself.
We’ve all encountered this know-it-all type in our everyday lives, but this person is even more insufferable during March Madness. He or she never misses an opportunity to explain to you in excruciating detail why your bracket is going to be completely busted by the second round and how you really should have consulted him or her before submitting it. In reality, it matters not how much SportsCenter you watch; if you are a Joe Lunardi disciple; or whether you have a Ph.D. in Bracketology, unless you own a crystal ball and a knack for reading the future, you cannot predict more accurately than anyone else which teams will win which games. Sleeper picks and surprise runs will always play a role in the NCAA tournament, but if Nate Silver hasn’t been able to come up with an algorithm to correctly predict winners and losers, your self-proclaimed expert friend certainly can’t.
Tell-tale signs of an expert include unsubstantiated claims of having inside knowledge about teams or players and an annoying sense of smugness.
“The Safe Bettor”
This person probably enjoys college basketball but has an unfortunate lack of creativity or is cripplingly risk averse. As a result, the safe bettor chooses only the higher-ranked seeds in every matchup from start to finish. When, inevitably, all of his or her No. 1 seeds make it to the Final Four, the safe bettor spends hours agonizing over the ensuing decision, tortured by the dilemma of which top seed to pick for the championship game. Unable to make such a difficult choice, the safe bettor ends up picking whomever the majority of ESPN analysts have picked and then flips a coin to decide the champion.
This robotic approach drains the fun (and the point) from an NCAA tourney pool. Only choosing the favorites is as spineless as it is snooze-worthy, so loosen up and pick at least one significant upset. The worst that can happen is losing 10 dollars.
“The Arbitrary Chooser”
This tourney pool regular is the opposite of the safe bettor. What this person lacks in basketball knowledge, he or she makes up for in enthusiasm. Paying no attention to the rankings, the arbitrary chooser will select only the teams with interesting names and brightly colored jerseys, in addition to his or her own alma mater. An inevitable presence in any bracket game, this person makes most other participants, particularly the experts, feel confident in their own choices.
It is important to remember that because the arbitrary chooser’s method of selection is completely random and meaningless, this person retains zero bragging rights should a handful of his or her predictions turn out to be correct.
“The Tasteless Trash Talker”
While a little trash-talking is an established tradition in any NCAA tournament pool, the tasteless trash talker, as the name suggests, can turn a friendly competition into full-blown antagonism in one conversation. This person is overly competitive, and is more interested in winning money than watching basketball, and — from obnoxious social media postings to constant texts — the trash-talker never misses an opportunity to rub his or her correct bracket predictions in your face. Should this person actually win the pool, it is advisable to cut off all communication with said individual for several weeks (if not longer).
Though this type is usually easily identifiable, avoiding the trash-talker proves more difficult, as he or she has likely entered brackets in several different tourney pools to increase both the chances of winning money and the opportunity to talk smack to everyone he or she knows.
“The Sketchy Pool Manager”
This is the person that will make your parents wag their fingers and say, “I told you gambling would lead to no good!” He or she will recruit as many participants as possible to enter his or her pool, collect the money and then rip off the winner. Unfortunately, this shady type strikes more often than you might think. Whether it’s that kid who lived on your floor freshman year, the dishwasher at the restaurant where you work or that flakey TA from last semester, if you don’t know the manager well and/or can’t easily track them down, save your buy-in for a different pool.
And if the above description applies to you, consider this your warning.
Laura Wagner is a sophomore in the College. GAME OF CHANGE appears every Tuesday.