Thursday, March 19, 2009


For all those who are completely oblivious to the national sports scene, that sudden decline in attention and productivity within your office/school/factory/etc. can probably be attributed to the start of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament and all the wagering and bracket projecting that it entails. It's a yearly national phenomenon, kind of like the Super Bowl stretched out over weeks. Even if you have little to no connection to college basketball, chances are if you've got friends, you've filled out a bracket or two. While pundits, professional gamblers, sports experts, and Joe Lundari would like to have you believe that there is some sort of advanced science to making accurate bracket predictions, in the end it's just as random as picking lottery numbers.

That's one of the big reasons it has such wide appeal. Anyone can participate, even if you have no idea how the game of basketball is played. All you have to do is make binary decisions that narrow a field of 64 down to 1. Of course a little bit of research and knowledge of the particulars can only help when those decisions, but more often then not it seems like the sports illiterate secretary or the guy in class who doesn't watch TV, or someones 8 year old is the one coming out ahead in a large pool full of fans and experts.

So of course what better way for a president to endear himself to populist sentiment then to do his own bracket as well. Maybe it's because we have a young, hip, basketball loving president, but I can't recall news stories any of the prior presidents making their own March Madness sheets. While writing up your own sheet as the President may seem like an innocuous bit of positive publicity, I think it's nothing but trouble:
  • The biggest drawback of having a public bracket is that right off the bat you are snubbing 63 out of 64 schools. When the President makes a Super Bowl prediction, he'll obviously alienate the hometown fans of one city over another. With the NCAA tournament, you can only pick one out of 64. Just as soon as the bracket was announced, Duke's Coach K immediately announced is displeasure. In the words of another prominent Illinois Commander in Chief:“You can’t please all of the people all of the time".
  • Just one look at the President's brackets seem to indicate a fairly by the numbers, chalk heavy approach to his selections. There are very few upsets or surprises here. For a candidate who ran on a platform of change and bold new thinking for this country, it certainly isn't reflected in his selections. It looks like standard Washington bracketing as usual. The last thing you want is for people to be calling your brackets conservative.
  • In addition, apparently Obama originally picked Pitt and Louisville in the national title game with Louisville winning but then quickly scratched it out and replaced Pitt with UNC and had the Tar Heels winning it all. This bit of publicized indecision is not the image you want to reflect as the President. If you're going to pick, pick boldly.
  • Perhaps it's not the best move for Obama to align himself with an activity that is inherently driven by billions in illegal gambling and is associated with workplace unproductiveness, especially in this economic climate. You want to project that you're working day and night to solve the credit crisis, not working on the office pool.
  • Obama picked, UNC, probably the second most polarizing college basketball team. The only worse team he could have chosen would have been Duke. He should have gone with a more neutral favorite like Pitt or Louisville or maybe a trendy upstart like Wake Forrest or Syracuse. Atleast he can't be accused of rampant homerism by taking overrated Illionis deep into the tournament.

No comments:

Post a Comment