Been & Going

[HorroR Stories] Don’t Get Mad About the Madness

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My company has banned March Madness pools, brackets, etc. company wide. I’m wondering your thoughts on this?

Banned? I love the word banned. I love when grown adults walk around telling other grown adults “You are banned from doing that! Stop it!” I think that ALWAYS goes well. Really, I’ve never, in my 15 year career, ever seen that not work. Never.

You don’t believe me, do you? Well, you shouldn’t. Because it does go wrong. Oh, baby does it go wrong.

But, come on, we all know by now that anytime you ban something that someone really wants to do, they’re going to do it anyway, they’re just going to hide it from you. So I’m guessing that there are all sorts of secret March Madness pools whipping around your company right now. Those that banned it look kinda dumb, kinda like they don’t have any authority, don’t have any leverage, and don’t have a clue. I hate to say it, but kinda like Obama right now in this whole Ukraine situation, but that’s a different post.

Conventional wisdom and every single HR bulletin and newsletter sent out this time of year warns at the productivity loss that March Madness brings. And things like “The Hopper,” cell phones, iPads, etc. make it worse. But, come on guys, it’s like trying to stop the flood, or Putin, or Wal-Mart from selling cigarettes, sometimes you just gotta let it happen and then clean up the mess.

In my dream company I would advise managers not to beat ‘em but to join ‘em. And I’m not just saying that because the first 2 days of March Madness are as holy in my household as the first 2 days of Passover, or Lent, or Christmas, or whatever, which is to say, we take the days off, sit on our couch, eat chicken fingers and scream at the TV. Just like Passover, except the chicken fingers are breaded with matzo. Weird.

Anyway, why not embrace March Madness? I have found that competition is one of the best way to build cohesiveness in companies. So why not create brackets, have departments compete against each other, set up some TV’s in the break rooms? Sometimes you have to let employees feel like they are getting away with something. It builds loyalty, usually. I mean sure, it could also go horribly awry, but that’s life, right?

As with anything when dealing with employees, focus on the outcomes, the production, the performance. “Hey Jan, finish that report and then we can go watch the end of the VCU game for a few minutes.” It’s a bonding experience. It brings you all closer together. Hold hands, scream at the TV, wish for the death of the receptionist who chose her brackets based on mascots and is currently beating everyone else. But wish for her death together.

And for those companies who are terrified of the word “gambling,” and therefore “ban” anything that comes close, don’t approve or sanction bracket pools that have a buy-in. For the company wide competition just buy pizza for the winner. That’s not gambling, right? And then verbally tell everyone to keep their personal bracket pools at home, or in the lunchroom, during lunch hours.

I’m in la-la land, I know. Brackets are banned where I work currently as well. Sigh. But these are my thoughts, for which you asked. So good luck in your clandestine bracket pool. Hopefully you didn’t pick Duke. Horror- 032614-mercer

[California Seething] CPR is Optional but March Madness Isn’t

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I was in a CPR class with my co-workers when an interesting question came up. Our instructor, Safety Bob (not his real name- but very, very close) was stressing the importance of using breathing barriers when giving mouth-to-mouth in order to avoid the spread of disease when one of my colleagues asked “what if you see someone who needs CPR but you don’t have a breathing 50th Anniversary Of CPR Marked In San Franciscobarrier with you?”

Well- Safety Bob had a quick response for that one, and he shot back with a rhetorical question- “Look at the person who needs help on the ground in front of you and ask: how important is his life?” Wow. Point made. We all nodded – clearly understanding the value of every human life.

But then, much to our surprise, Safety Bob began to prioritize:

“If it’s a family member- then, of course, no question- do what you need to do to save their lives.” OK. Yeah. Got that. Don’t let your sister die. Noted.

”If it’s a co-worker. Well…yes. You should do CPR. Probably” Nervous laughter around the room as we all avoided eye contact with that one guy with the English accent who was on nobody’s “probably” list.

“And, if it’s a homeless guy passed out on the street- absolutely not. Your life is way more important than his. I see a homeless guy unconscious with a brown paper bag and an empty bottle sticking out of it, the most I’m gonna do is poke him with my foot to make sure he’s breathing.”

I know. It’s shocking right, this attitude towards human life. I couldn’t believe it- I was like – Best CPR Teacher EVAH! I mean, here I was totally stressed out about taking this class because I was sure that, once I took it, if I saw some super-gross icky homeless dude lying all passed out in vomit on the street and I thought he might be, you know, dying or something, then I would have to, like, actually DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. EWWWWWWW Homeless Guy mouth SOOOOO GROSS. Turns out, though- I’m off the hook! I can totally just let him die and I don’t have to feel bad about it cause Safety Bob said it was cool. This Republican CPR is AMAZEBALLS.

And it doesn’t stop there- even co-workers are just a “Probably”. So think about that- Mr. “I Reply All to Every Fucking Company Wide E-Mail That Has Nothing to do with Me Because I Have to Make Sure Everyone Knows What I Think at All Times Because I’m So Motherfucking Goddamn Important” and Ms. “I Make Every Single Fucking Meeting Last An Hour and a Half Longer than it has to Because I Always Have to Have the Last Word and I Can’t Stop Myself From Asking the Stupidest Fucking Questions Especially When the Meeting is Going RIGHT THROUGH LUNCHTIME.” Cause the next time you’re about to email “Great job everybody, go team!” to 150 people who hate your fucking guts for cluttering their goddamn Inbox or say “So…wait…how does this new email system work again?” at 1:30 PM when we’ve been talking about it for TWO FUCKING HOURS – just remember – YOU’RE ALL GOING TO (probably) DIE.

OK, so, to be fair, Safety Bob was just talking about the risk of pathogens passing through mouth to mouth contact and, strictly speaking, if I see a homeless person on the ground, then I should still do chest compressions if I think he needs help. Well, I mean- of course he needs help– he’s homeless- that comes with the job description – but I’m not teaching a fucking life skills class- I’m just doing CPR. I mean, sure maybe I can save his life but I can’t give him something to live for.  Not that CPR really saves many lives- I mean, mostly it’s just a way to feel better about yourself when someone drops dead in front of you- so that things aren’t so awkward if you ever meet the family. Let’s face it- it’s much better to say “I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. I did all I could, but I just couldn’t save him.” as opposed to “Sorry ‘bout your dad, dude- I totally Instagrammed that shit! #badsamaritan  #sadpanda”

Now- you might think I’m really tempting Karma by joking about all the co-workers I probably wouldn’t save, but I’m not worried Cal Seething- 032414- santabecause I perform a very valuable service for my company. No- it’s not “playing Santa at the holiday party” or “making wise-ass remarks during boring meetings” or “operating the Kirk Douglas Theatre” pffft- whatevs. No- I run the company’s annual STRICTLY UNOFFICIAL FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY March Madness pool. In the years I’ve been running the pool, it’s grown from 15 to 56 brackets, making it the fastest growing enterprise in non-profit theatre- and it now includes players from theatres around the country – which is so typical of our field these days. Even the March Madness pool is a co-production.

Now, for those of you that aren’t familiar with March Madness cause you’re one of those people who don’t like things that are awesome- like, maybe you’re a baseball fan or a botanist or that old couple from the Safeco ads whose idiot son drowned tragically while Cal Seething- 032414- Safecojet-skiing with his Shiksa wife (which serves him right for going camping on his honeymoon and not listening to his mother. I mean- camping- does that sound romantic to you? At least he had that Safeco “Death Wish” policy they keep advertising for motorcycle riding jet ski enthusiasts, or whatever those commercials are for)  March Madness refers to the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament (there’s a Women’s version too but who cares #marchsadness.) It is, arguably, the most exciting three week period of the sports year. Seriously- if you love watching young people working their ass off for no money in a ferociously competitive environment but you don’t already work in entertainment then March Madness is the next best thing. And I know a lot of people think it’s not fair that big corporations & the NCAA make billions off March Madness but the players get nothing- but I prefer to think of the well being of our young people. I mean- what kind of lesson would we be teaching them if we told them life was fair? How does that help prepare them for the world? I mean, if we don’t teach them how to be exploited by big corporations in school, how will they be ready to be exploited by big corporations when they graduate? We can’t count on Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Discover Card to do everything.

So much like watching NFL Football or a Woody Allen film festival or reading the works of Heidegger in your Book Club for Douchey Pricks (we meet at Intelligentsia Coffee and it’s BYO Kale) enjoying March Madness means shutting out all the evil stuff behind it. But isn’t that also one of the most important life lessons we can teach our young people today? I mean, unless you want to work for a non-profit and eat raw foods and ride your bike everywhere and make your own clothes from hemp- sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to compartmentalize in order to survive, cause sooner or later your parents are gonna get sick of you bitching about the coded Transphobia on RuPaul’s Drag Race and they’ll kick you the fuck out the house. Anyhow- there’s so much awesome stuff about March Madness- why dwell on the evil? I mean, it’s not just about the NCAA and their Corporate Overlords  Champions making billions of dollars on the backs on unpaid workers- NO- it’s about gambling and lost productivity and making a whole bunch of totally arbitrary decisions about something you know absolutely nothing about and then basing your entire sense of self worth on the outcome of those decisions and WHAT DO YOU MEAN KANSAS IS LOSING??? I Cal Seething- 032414- kidHAVE THEM GOING TO THE SWEET 16 HOW THE FUCK CAN THEY LOSE???? Come on Kansas, you’re a Goddamn superstar championship team, don’t you see that little white kid crying in the stands? Win it for him! You’re one of the best teams in the country, so remember who you are, get your shit together and WIN ALREADY and then with the next one AND THEN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLAY LIKE THE STINKING FUCKING USELESS LOSERS YOU ARE AND LOSE TO FLORIDA!!!! I won’t be wrong again!!! This year I’m going to win this fucking pool!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I’ve been watching basketball practically non-stop for four days. It’s begun to take its toll. I’m unshaven, I haven’t showered, I’m hoarse from screaming and totally out of touch with the world. In four short days, I’ve gone from a productive member of society to Howard Hughes – if Howard Hughes had picked Syracuse to go to the Elite 8 only to watch them LOSE TO DAYTON!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK SYRACUSE????? You would think after all these years that I would have learned that no matter how good they might look Syracuse is always going to disappoint EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME- oh, wait, sorry- except for that one year where I picked them to lose in the Round of 32 and they went to the Final Four. WHAT THE FUCK, JIM BOEHEIM?? Haven’t I always been a fan? Didn’t I used to have a small novelty Syracuse basketball and HOLY SHIT Kansas is within 3 with 15 seconds to go. They can win this thing!! The white kid in the stands stopped crying!!! Come on…come on… shootitshootitshootitshootit OK- wait, yes, pass it to the Intense Little White Guy Whose Name I Don’t Know. Good plan. COME ON INTENSE LITTLE WHITE GUY WHOSE NAME I DON’T KNOW!!! SHOOTITSHOOTITSHOOTITSHOOTISHOOTIT YESSSS!!!! NO!!!! He missed. Ball is loose GET THE REBOUND. No!!! NO!!! FUCK NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  IT’S OVER. Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. LOSERS. Ha- that’s awesome- they keep showing that crying little Kansas fan kid. Go on, little white Kansas fan, cry your little eyes out- this is only gonna be on YouTube in 10 seconds for the entire world to ridicule you (isn’t the Internet great?)- but don’t worry- you’ll get over it. Someday, you’re going to grow up and go to Kansas and wear a giant stuffed Jayhawk on your head and Cal Seething- 032414- jayhawkcheer your heart out only to watch Kansas crush all your hopes and dreams ALL OVER AGAIN while you shamelessly weep and the entire world ridicules you again cause if there’s one thing funnier than a little kid weeping it’s a dude wearing a giant stuffed Jayhawk on his head crying like a bitch. ISN’T MARCH MADNESS FUN?????????? Yes. Damn it. Yes.

Look, you would think I’d be used to this annual humiliation- but I was sure this year was going to be different because, this year, I was counting on Big Data to save me. That’s right- no more picking sentimental favorites or media darlings or schools with funny names or Gonzaga (all of the above)- this was the year I would rely on Cold Hard Math and Slightly Warmer but Equally Hard Data to make my picks- and the Prophet who would take me to the Promised Land of Probability- none other than Nate Silver. That’s right- Mr himself- the man about whom I said in a previous post “Nate Silver and My Wife are AlwaysCal Seething- 032414- natemath Right” the man who predicted the 2012 Obama landslide, the man who…well…I’m sure has also been right about a whole bunch of other stuff too, even though I have no idea what it is. No longer would I wander in the desert, lost in a wasteland of speculation and guesswork- this year, I would finally come home. I would be the Prodigal Fan and Nate Silver would prepare a banquet of perfect picks before me to feast on. Baptized in numbers, sanctified by statistics I would ascend like Elijah to heaven on a flaming chariot of accuracy to the top of the CTG March Madness pool and for the first time in eight years I would finally finish HIGHER THAN 6TH FUCKING PLACE HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH!!!!

With the fervor of a true convert- I turned to Nate Silver’s Super Duper Handy Dandy Auto Adjusting  Bracket-ator O-Matic Bot Thingy (NOT the official name, but it should be. Nate- you can totally use this one. Uhm….you’re welcome? Dick)- using my Clear Thinking Left Brain to make my picks and ruthlessly silencing my Mushy Headed Right Brain Instincts, Feelings & Anecdotal Information at every turn.

Right Brain: Gee, Left Brain Eric- you’re picking Duke to go to the Elite 8? Didn’t you think they looked awfully listless and apathetic during the ACC Tournament- plus they don’t really have much experience. I feel like…

Left Brain: QUIET YOU. They numbers tell me they will reach the Elite 8.

Right Brain: Wowzers, Left Brain Eric- you’re picking Kansas to go to the Sweet 16- you know that Joel Embiid is out, right – and Cal Seething- 032414- brainthey’re gonna need his defense. I feel like….

Left Brain: SILENCE FOOL. You know nothing. The numbers say to pick Kansas, so I shall pick Kansas and have them lose to Syracuse in the Sweet 16.

Right Brain: Wait- Syracuse? Dude- are you fucking kidding me? Syracuse has been tanking lately- they’ll be luck to get by Dayt….

Left Brain: ENOUGH YOU INSOLENT BUFFOON. I shall tolerate no more of your anecdotal nonsense. THOU MUST NOT QUESTION BIG DATA. Now- will you behave? Or do I need to read another painfully long article about the possible whereabouts of flight MH370.

Right Brain: No, no- I’ll be good.

Left Brain: Are you sure? Look- this one has nautical charts!

Right Brain: GET IT AWAY! I’ll behave. I promise.

So with my Right Brain properly disciplined I set about making my….wait…come on…OK…YES!! OK Wichita State- down by 2. You can win this thing. 3.2 seconds left….inbound the ball… GET IT TO EARLY…or wait…OK….get it to the Floppy Haired White Guy….COME ON FLOPPY HAIRED WHITE GUY…no…wait… he’s passing to the Other White Guy…why is he doing that….COME ON OTHER WHITE GUY…shootitshootitshootitSHOOTITSHOOTIT!!!!! YES! Wait NO!!!!!!!! It’s Over? FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!! Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. Thanks a lot Kentucky for validating everything wrong with College Basketball. Oh wait- hold on- I had Kentucky winning in one of my brackets. SWEET! Thanks, Kentucky- for validating everything that’s great about College Basketball! Sigh. Cal Seething- 032414- wichitaI’m such a whore. Hey, look, it’s a crying Wichita State fan. Man! I haven’t seen this many white people cry since Romney lost. I mean there were a whole bunch of them crying during 12 Years a Slave but that’s cause they knew everyone was watching (“no, seriously, you guys – I’m like soooo sad about slavery.)

And speaking of Romney, I was confident that with Nate Silver at my side I could avoid his fate of looking at data selectively to validate what I wanted to be true only to be crushed when reality reared its ugly head. No, this year I would be like Obama- looking carefully at the real numbers and leveraging the data to my advantage so that everything worked out exactly as planned  (2012 Obama, not Obama.) I even strategically hedged my bets and used my two brackets to make slightly different picks to maximize my chances of triumph. Victory was practically guaranteed- hell I was kicking myself for not signing up for the Billion dollar challenge- cause with Nate Silver at my side, it would be like taking a billion dollars worth of candy from a baby who looks disturbingly like an 83 year old man from Omaha who, itCal Seething- 032414- buffet turns out, is significantly harder to take candy from.

Anyhow- after Day 1 (or “Thursday” as some people call it) things were looking pretty good. I mean, so, sure, OK- OSU lost to Dayton- but that was OK- I had them losing in the next round to Syracuse anyhow. Oh, yeah, and North Dakota State took down Oklahoma- but, that was fine- I mean, those 12 / 5 games are always tricky and, it’s all about playing the percentages, right? I mean- that’s the thing about Big Data- you’re not gonna be right all the time- just more often than anybody else. Right? I went to bed Thursday night in good position- tied for 9th just a couple points off the lead and confident that Big Data would lead me to glory in the long run and that I would emerge triumphant.

Right Brain: Ooooooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this….


Right Brain: I’m good.

Turns out, though, that my Right Brain was right to be concerned because Day 2 was, as my wife called it, “carnage”. By the end of the day, my bracket was covered in digital red ink as all as loser after loser after loser was crossed out. Now I had just learned in CPR that teachers aren’t supposed to use red ink anymore because it’s bad for our children’s self esteem to see all that red ink on their test page. Now I happen to agree with this 100%. It’s terrible for children’s self esteem to see so much red ink on a test- and the best thing we can do about this is make our kids less fucking stupid. But then again, we can’t even say “stupid” anymore. I’ve been notified by certain parents that “stupid” is a bad word and I can’t say it in front of their kids. Do you know how hard that it? I mean, if I can’t use the word “stupid” then what am I supposed to say when parents tell me that I can’t say “stupid” in front of their kids. Retarded?? That’s seriously verboten. Still- I must admit it’s a brilliant solution to our education woes. Why do we need our kids to be smart anyhow- what is this, India? It’s way more important they have good Self Esteem. Cause in America- we like our kids like we like Mitch McConnell- Over-Confident and Under-Educated!

OK, so yeah, I’m bitter, I’m lashing out, I’ll admit it. Day 2 was an unmitigated disaster.  Duke, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, UMass, VCU- all teams I picked. All GONE. And yet, somehow, at the end of it, I was still very much in the fight. Sure one bracket was in 35th place- but the other was in a very respectable tie for 11th. I was confident that all my defeats were simply statistical aberrations and that surely in the next round, Nate Silver would come swooping down like an avenging angel from heaven yielding Cal Seething- 032414- natehearthis Flaming Sword of Statistics (Worst. D&D Weapon. Ever) and would carry me to glory! Right? Right????

Right Brain: Yeah, not so much.

Yeah, not so much. I don’t even want to talk about what happened on Day 3. Or on Day 4 so far for that matter. Suffice it to say, I’m in 44th place. In a tie. With myself. Oh, wait, no hold on- sorry, didn’t check after the Kentucky game – one bracket is up to 32nd. Zippidie. Fucking. Doo Dah. OK Wait- COME ON IOWA STATE. 15.7 left- don’t fuck it up-passing….passing….using the clock- what are you waiting for??? Shootitshootitshootitshootit – OK – yeah yeah yeah – get it to that guy- D’Andre Something Or Other With the Flat Top- he’s dribbling…he’s dribbling….he’s dribbling- DO SOMETHING ALREADY –CUT-PENETRATE- – SCORE!!!!YESSSSSSS!!!!! WAY TO GO D’ANDRE SOMETHING OR OTHER WITH A FLAT TOP- YOU’RE A FUCKING ROCKSTAR!!! 1.5 left. UNC has it- dribbling over half court- time running out- do they get the timeout???? Do they?? Uhm. Nobody seems to know. Refs are talking…they’re talking…they’re talking….COME ON ALREADY….talking…talking…looking at the screen….talking…talking…YES!!! IT’S OVER!!!!!  IOWA STATE WINS!!!!! IOWA STATE WINS!!!! I’ve never in my entire life given a shit about Iowa State one way or the other but you bet your sweet ass I do now because I GOT ONE RIGHT TODAY!!!!!! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!! WE’RE NUMBER ONE. Well, OK, strictly speaking I’m in 28th place- but, hey- WE’RE NUMBER 28!!!! WE’RE NUMBER 28!!! In one bracket. The other is 43rd. OK,Yeah, Yeah. Shake hands, shake hands. Good game good game good game good game. HA! I’M A FUCKING GENIUS!!!!!  28th PLACE- BITCHEZ!!!!  I’m on the comeback trail. Sort of.  And, oh, of course- here’s a UNC fan crying. God- get over it white Cal Seething- 032414- uncpeople. Sure, you’re going to be a minority soon- but you’ve still got all that cool stuff from Pottery Barn.

Anyhow, that’s where I leave you- at the end of Day 4 with my brackets clinging to life. And while the prognosis isn’t good- I do feel like if Safety Bob saw my brackets on the ground he would definitely perform CPR. Probably. Let’s see how the UCLA game goes. What? They’re winning?? WOO-HOOOO!!! It’s you and me all the way Nate- we’re gonna win this thing!!!!

Right Brain: And he calls himself the rational one.

P.S.- UCLA won. Hurray!!! But Creighton lost to Baylor. FUCKKKKKKKKK!!!!! God this is rough- I’m gonna need CPR myself if things keep up at this rate- and the way I’ve been carrying on – no one’s gonna want to save me- ESPECIALLY not my family (the dog is particularly over it- but fuck him, his bracket’s doing great). But hey- what a way to go- Death by Bracket! I wonder if Safeco covers that?

Oh, and I couldn’t find a picture of a crying Creighton fan cause seriously, it’s Creighton, who gives a shit? So here’s that crying Kansas fan white kid again. Cal Seething- 032414- kidHave fun back at school kid! Don’t worry, you’re cool- I’m sure no one in Kansas was watching.

God, I love March Madness.