March Madness strikes the workplace

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March 14, 2007

The NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament starts tomorrow, and that means only one thing: millions of people all of the country spent their day filling out their brackets.

Gambling on the tournament is a bigger business than gambling in Las Vegas...and for employees all over the country, filling out bracket sheets was the most important business of the day.

It's all supposed to be fun and games, but for millions of Americans, winning the office March Madness pool is serious business.

We talked to several employees who did not want their bosses to find out how they actually spent their workdays.

"Don't think this hasn't been difficult," said a radio personality whose initials are A.R. "We got a guy here who hocked his cat. It takes cash to play with the big boys."

"March Madness is incredibly important to us," he went. "In fact, we took up a collection today to get the boss out of the office. We got him a certificate for golf out in Barnwell. I didn't even know they had golf in Barnwell."

Around his office, he wasn't alone.

"We really don't have time for it...but excuse me while I get back to some important paperwork," one employee said as he returned to his bracket.

One survey found 27 percent of office employees join March Madness pools.

"We really don't have to worry about it," one employee said, "because our boss doesn't come in till before noon so we're all filling them out before then. Excuse me one second. Newsroom, this is Mary Liz..."

A California workplace consulting firm predicts March Madness will cost companies at least $1 billion in lost productivity.

"Management could never find out, because I'd definitely spend 75 to 80 percent of my day following the NCAA brackets. I mean I don't even like basketball but it's just so much better than working here you know?" one anonymous HD98.3 employee said, before answering a page for "Kris Fisher".

And the number of employees spending their workday doing the same thing could soon rise, with CBS streaming the games online.

One savvy employee showed us the "Boss Button"--click it and a fake spreadsheet pops up on your screen, so you too can fool any boss into thinking you're hard at work all day long, for at least the next three weeks.

While betting on the tournament is technically illegal, it seems everyone turns a blind eye in order to have a shot at the big prize.

But streaming the games over the internet could get you in trouble, especially in Ohio, where some companies have pulled the plug on watching the games at work for fear it will crash the computer systems.

Of course, News 12 is the only place you can watch the tournament games live.

All the action starts at 12:10 pm tomorrow, right after a short version of News 12 Midday.

Our coverage continues all the way through the tournament championship game April 2.

It includes the first two rounds, the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and the Final Four in Atlanta.

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