It’s not impossible! Sadly, it is just unlikely. I am talking about March Madness, of course, and the chances of filling out a perfect bracket. Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the NCAA tournaments send millions of fans into a synchronized frenzy each year when 67 teams are vying for college basketball’s biggest prize. Oh, the glory of heart-pounding, last second, buzzer beating baskets that result in the euphoria of winning, while the rest agonize in defeat and have to go home. There will be tears, cheers, and greatness with one champion at the end of the chaos.
How are you at math? According to Forbes, you have a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of filling out a bracket without any errors. That is eighteen zeroes behind a nine! But take heart, a professor at DePaul University named Jeff Bergen has come up with better odds — one in 128 billion — on guessing all 67 games correctly. Actually, my brain cannot imagine or even grasp these numbers, since they have no reference in real life.
Well, Americans must like March Madness because an estimated $3 billion are played annually, and that doesn’t even take into consideration businesses that hold contests and pay out prize money. Las Vegas casinos earn about $100 million each spring, the heft of it coming from March Madness betting. There are bracket pools, player pools and then point spread and individual game bets. Of course, most Americans do not enter bracket pools at work to get rich . . . . it is all for fun.
Want to win $1 million? If you work for Berkshire Hathaway, investor Warren Buffet has offered a million big ones for hitting a perfect opening round in their NCAA brackets. The odds of this happening are like getting struck by lightning, while picking up your winning lottery ticket, as you are making acceptance speech for winning an Academy Award. In other words, don’t get too excited people.
Let’s forget about brackets for a moment, since there seems to be a strange phenomenon occurring during March Madness. This is considered “vasectomy season.” I am not making this up! It seems urologists all over the country do a great business in scheduling vasectomies in March and quite a few doctors offer “special discounts” and free pizza for watching hoops during recuperation. One Los Angeles urologist runs an ad that screams, “If you have four kids and want to be certain that they are the Final Four — call today for a 40 percent discount.” Ha! I am calling foul! This does not seem right!
Let the games begin! Now that many Americans are obsessed with the thrill of the hoops, work efficiency all over the nation will begin to drop for the next few weeks. So let the bets begin! And maybe the drama of the hoops will overtake all the rest of the whacky news cycle and some lucky person will win big.
Sharpen your pencils, get going on your brackets. Perhaps place a bet. Order a pizza. Don’t let the math or odds get you down. As Professor Bergen says, “Perfection is really hard to achieve, but fun is a whole lot easier to obtain.” Perfect. Go teams and long live Gonzaga!
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.