Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness at work

Today and Friday are traditionally two of the most unproductive days of work in the U.S., as long as the workplace has a TV or computer. It's the first two days of the NCAA tournament, i.e., March Madness, and the only days where games are shown during the work day. Sixteen games are scheduled for both today and Friday with first games tipping off around 11:20 a.m.

This is the last bastion of major sports events played during a work day. Once upon a time, World Series games were played in the afternoon and there would be stories of students and employees with transitor radios in their ears listening the game. That they were transitor radios says a whole lot about how long ago this was. Hint: think 40 years.

The consulting firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas estimates NCAA basketball watching could cost $1.7 billion in wasted time over the next two days. I have no idea how that's figured and then quantified into a dollar amount, but that's what they say.

This comes from congregating around the TV, going to a two-hour "working lunch" or watching games on the computer. Frankly, I'm appalled at such a practice. As was said in the movie "Casablanca" when gambling was discovered in the back of Rick's, "I'm shocked! Shocked!"

For the last few years, it's oh-so-tempting with's March Madness on Demand where games can be watched from the work computer. According to USA Today, Nielsen Online estimates 92 percent of viewers to March Madness on Demand in 2008 came through work computers. Games can now be watched on I-phones for about $4.99 and AT&T mobile devices have games free of charge.

If you're at work today and want to catch some early afternoon games, I hope you have a device known as the "boss button." About 2.5 million used them last year. A click of the button changes the game on your screen terminal to a complicated spreadsheet should the boss start to wander close by.

That's all well and good, but if you're supposed to be working on Friday's column, that may not help.

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