March Madness: Building community

I am not a sports fanatic but March Madness is one of those events that brings out the fan in everyone. We’ve all got a team – from our hometown, a school we attended, somewhere we once lived, or maybe we just like the mascot. We cross our fingers and hope “our” team perseveres. Our team – good or bad, right or wrong, win or lose.

March Madness – 68 college basketball teams, 67 do-or-die games over a three-week series played for college b-ball’s biggest prize – who could resist? For most of us March Madness is a shared experience and a fun distraction from our everyday  responsibilities, a distraction facilitated by modern technology. As USA TODAY reports,

… the explosive growth in smartphones and tablets over the past two years has been a game-changer (for March Madness fans). Now the tournament’s live-streaming games are accessible even to office workers who have sports and entertainment sites blocked by employers.

For this tournament, 86% of people who plan to watch the games say they will devote at least some time during their workday to activities like checking stats and scores online, according to an MSN survey. That’s up from 81% last year.

A quarter say they will spend one to two work hours today and Friday following the tournament. Nearly 20% will spend three to five hours, and 11% will spend five hours or more.

It’s nearly impossible to pin a dollar figure on the productivity drain, but employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas tries. It says that in the next two days alone, employers could pay distracted workers $175 million in wages while they’re preoccupied by the games.

Good luck to your team. And your company! Here’s hoping you don’t lose too much in the office pool. My money’s on the University of South Florida Bulls (which scored an outstanding win in the first game of the First Four, played tonight) and Michigan State (the Spartans play their first game this Friday). No, I didn’t pick them through some scientific, statistical analysis. I’m an alumnus of both and that’s good enough for me.

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