This month, Warren Buffett's National Indemnity Company takes on the risk-assumption role of a lifetime. Quicken Loans is offering a $1 billion payout for the perfect bracket. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is insuring the bet. You've surely heard about this: The announcement was big news. One bracket, one billion. Billion, with a b.
The only problem? It's not going to happen.
The odds of selecting a "perfect bracket" -- picking the winner of every game in every round from First Four to Final -- are, at best, 1 billion-to-1. For someone with no basketball knowledge, the odds are 9.2 quintillion-to-1. Either way, it isn't bloody likely. Surprise, surprise, Buffett didn't spend his life accumulating a $54 billion fortune with bad math or bad bets.
The other day, when I was telling my girlfriend about the Quicken Loans-Buffett-billion, she asked a good question: What stops someone from submitting every possible bracket? Surely a computer algorithm could be written to generate enough brackets, and enough fake email addresses, to cover every single conceivable combination of wins and losses. Quicken Loans has a simple solution, it turns out, one Dan Gilbert shared with ESPN's Rick Reilly last week: "You also have to give a cellphone number," Gilbert says. "I can't imagine someone is going to have a thousand cellphones."
In other words, it's official: Unless you've ad Javier Bardem-in-"Skyfall"-level hacker, you have no reason to fill out more than one bracket this year.
In fact, you never have a reason to fill out more than one bracket.
Longtime College Basketball Nation readers will recognize this line of argument right away. It's something of a yearly tradition. And we do this knowing that what we say has zero effect on how you will spend your next days. We're shouting into the void. You're going to swim through brackets like Scrooge McDuck whether we tell you to rein it in or not.
But we're going to tell you anyway. Filling out more than one bracket is lame.
It's lame because you'll have less fun. It runs counter to the spirit of picking a bracket in the first place. It turns the do-or-die joy of hitting an upset, or the crushing lows of one of your Final Four teams losing in the first weekend, into nothing more than a financial portfolio. You spread your risk, hedge your bets. You become a mid-level bank branch manager.
The NCAA tournament is not a bank branch. It is not your 401(k). It is not a collateralized debt obligation. It is not meant to be diced up into tranches and leveraged as assets. The NCAA tournament is three-week barrage of insanity. It is organically designed for maximum glee. When you pick more than one bracket, you chip away at that glee quotient. Instead of celebrating when that upset you picked comes through, you scramble through five or six sheets to see which ones you had right and which you missed. It's like a to-do list. How much fun does that sound like?
You're also less fun to talk to. Part of the fun of the tournament, besides experiencing your own bracket, is talking about it with other people. You compare picks. You fret about upsets. You spend the ends of games describing what this loss would do to your bracket, or why you picked that No. 14 seed out of nowhere -- some story about your brother's girlfriend's brother, or something. These are the bonding moments. You can watch the tournament with anyone.
When you pick 10 brackets, you strangle these conversations in the womb. Here's how those exchanges go:
Other person: "Wow. Did you have Florida losing?"
You: "Well, in three of my brackets I did, but in two of them I had in the Final Four, and the other six just the Elite Eight, so all in all I'm feeling pretty good about where ..."
Other person: Walks away
See? Why do that to yourself? Is it just the money in bracket pools? Do you have a need to feel smarter than everyone else? Think about why you would be this person. Lame, lame, lame.
Instead, you could pick one bracket. You could spend your time with your picks. You could do your research and mull things over until you feel good about your entire field. By then, you'll know it by heart, so you won't need to look at it every time a result comes in -- you'll just know. And when a friend or that person down the bar starts up a conversation, you won't have to whip out some manila folder full of scratched-out brackets to figure out where you stand.
Multiple brackets aren't going to help you win Warren Buffett's $1 billion. Why not have some fun instead?