The best sign that a long winter is about to be over does not involve a groundhog looking for his shadow or temperatures beginning to rise—it is March Madness. A sporting event unlike any other—a single elimination bracket of 64 teams (well, I guess technically 68) that seems to be engineered for upsets. The relative parity of NCAA basketball combined with the inherent randomness of a single-elimination tournament creates the chaotic situation that keeps us all engaged throughout the tournament. March Madness is the ultimate reality television—truly unscripted and dramatic, which is typically why the person who choses teams based on jersey colors will win the office pool.
Unfortunately for us in the business world (especially in the accounting profession near the end of busy season), the best part of the tournament starts today (Thursday) and our ability to watch games is hampered. According to the Huffington Post, workplace productivity craters during the first two days of the tournament and IT departments struggle to cope with potentially hundreds of employees attempting to stream games. As most people are involved in some sort of family, friend, or office pool, employees are constantly checking stats on the games and their individual brackets. All of this culminates in two relatively unproductive days for even the most disciplined of workers.
Fox Business reported a story from a 2009 Microsoft survey where it estimates that 50 million Americans will spend an average of 1 hour filling out their bracket. Based on the average hourly earnings of $24.31 (from Bureau of Labor and statistics most recent report in 2009), one hour focused on March Madness could cost businesses a total of $1.2 Billion ($24.31 x 50 Million = $1,215,500,000).
Even the President of the United States has a bracket; I believe we should be petitioning the White House to make the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament national holidays (even for accountants!).