Have you started wasting your boss's money yet?
Are you working extra hard today, knowing you'll be pretty much checked out for the rest of the week because of the glorious first two days of the NCAA Tournament, or are you already poring over your bracket, trying to figure out if this will finally be the year when a 16 seed topples a 1?
As a firm believer in the theory that that will happen, and sooner rather than later, I say no, not this year. Sorry, Southern, Oral Roberts, Albany and Monmouth.
And sorry, Hampton, loser of Tuesday's dumb annual play-in game in Dayton, Ohio. As a conference champion you shouldn't have had to play that game. You should have had your ticket punched already while the last two at-large teams play the play-in, if someone has to, which they don't.
Sorry, but that Tuesday game just isn't part of the Tournament. The Tournament starts Thursday.
And you remember that annual report about how much the Tournament costs American business in lost production, the one this column took to the woodshed last year, debunking it, pantsing it, making it squeal like a pig before letting it scurry home?
It's back for more, and we seem to be in the throes of Brazil-like inflation.
Last year, Challenger, Gray and Christmas, the outplacement company that issues the bogus report as a publicity stunt, said American workers were costing their bosses $889.6 million in lost productivity by slacking to pay attention to the Tournament. That was a 16 percent hike from 2004, but we hadn't seen anything yet.
Thanks to Challenger, Gray's finding a new survey to hang its preposterous "findings" on, the new figure is $3.8 billion. That's billion with a B, as they say on TV.
That's 327 percent inflation! Get the hell back to work! Just reading this sentence, you're costing your boss $58. No, make that $112. Dang, it's $350 now!
No, I'm kidding. You're not costing your boss anything. Through the kind of exclusive, intrepid reporting that makes this column what it is, Salon has learned that the entirety of the $3.8 billion wasted by American workers at Tournament time is wasted by one person, Gerald Nanker of Evansville, Ind.
Nanker, who works for Tri-State Caster Supply, is the only person in America who never wastes a minute of work time, our investigation has found. Except on one day of the year, the day before the NCAA Tournament starts, when Nanker, not a college basketball fan, surfs the Web for most of the afternoon seeking information to help him fill out his bracket for the Tri-State office pool.
Hang on. Let me do a little Google thing here: ncaa tournament bracket strategy win office pool.
Nanker! I know you're reading this! Get back to work immediately! At this rate of inflation, you're going to be costing the American economy more than $5.4 trillion in lost productivity a year by 2011. That's trillion with a T!
The rest of you, you're off the hook. Now, I've got my eye on Pacific over Boston College, how about you?
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Underachieving Americans [PERMALINK]
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
A team of U.S. All-Stars in a quintessentially American sport goes to an international competition and, despite its enormous, multimillion-dollar talent, turns in a lackluster showing.
But there seems to be a big difference between the men's Olympic basketball team that bricked its way to a bronze medal in 2004 and the baseball team that has gone 3-2 and will be eliminated from the World Baseball Classic Wednesday night if Japan beats Korea and either gives up fewer than seven runs or scores more than seven.
Where is the outrage? Where are the talk radio hosts jabbering endlessly about the Americans' lack of fundamentals, bad attitudes, laziness, preoccupation with bling?
Americans are about to get bounced from an international tournament in their own sport -- and worse, at home -- and I haven't heard one word about the team's moral shortcomings. The basketball team's losses were proof of a breakdown in society. In baseball, hey, anything can happen in a short series.
Yeah. Me neither. Then again, I'm colorblind.
Previous column: Women's brackets announced, WBC
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