Sunday, March 27, 2011

All or Nothing

  Like most people, I’ve been watching the NCAA college basketball tournament the last few weeks. The tournament is over 3 weeks and is a gambler’s holiday. Everywhere I’ve ever worked has offered a pool where you pick the winners through all 6 rounds of the tournament, pitch in a few dollars, and maybe get lucky and win a lot. UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was fired from his job at Washington University for lying about winning $11,000 in 2 NCAA tournament pools, among other things. Neuheisel was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the NCAA after Neuheisel threatened a lawsuit. I think it’s ironic that the NCAA would have an objection to anyone participating in the basketball pool when it is the pools that make the NCAA basketball tournament TV rights worth 11 billion dollars over the next 14 years.

  I’ve never won any money in a NCAA tournament pool and haven’t bothered playing in the last few years. I don’t follow college basketball and couldn’t name 2 players from any team except the local Iowa teams. President Obama filled out a bracket and was in the 99th percentile after picking 29 of the first 32 games correctly. None of his picks made the Final Four and his percentile rating has plummeted. He got ripped by the republicans for filling out his bracket instead of attending to the affairs of State, but I liked that he not only made a bracket, he made it public. It is a good way to see how he thinks. He picked his share of correct upsets in the first round and picked the top 4 teams to advance to the Final Four. This tells me that Obama is good at analyzing the games, but when push comes to shove, he is as conservative as they come and he only is with the underdog on matters he doesn’t feel are important.

  I got to watch both tournament games yesterday. With a few seconds left the Florida Gators and the Arizona Wildcats were behind their opponents by 2 points. Both teams had a choice. They could attempt either a 2-point basket to tie the game and force an overtime period or a 3-point basket to win the game. In both cases, the teams went for the win but each team missed their 3-point shot and watched the Butler Bulldogs and Connecticut Huskies cut down the nets to celebrate their trip to the Final Four.

  As opposed to
accolades offered to Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads failed 2-point trick play in the Nebraska game, both Florida and Arizona were chastised by the TV announcers for attempting a risky 3-point shot instead looking for the easier shot for the tie game first. Had the 3-pointer went in, I’m sure the same announcers would have celebrated the winning teams first for their courage in risking defeat in order to have a chance at victory.

  I don’t have a problem with the teams trying to win the game by going for the 3-pointer. If the coaches thought that was the best play, I’m not going to argue. Basketball is such a fluid game, it’s possible that the coaches called a play to tie the game, but a player panicked and decided to try to be the hero. Both teams looked to be doing nothing different than they had been doing all game, it just didn’t work out when they went for all or nothing.

  I also went all or nothing this month. A job offer dropped into my lap at the beginning of the month. I liked the job I had, but the company was happy to use programming technologies from the 1990’s. Even though I was allowed to use newer technologies on occasion, I had to push the issue to be allowed to. This new job uses all different technologies. I was worried that I’d find myself looking for a job with a lot of outdated skills like a few years ago, so I decided to take the gamble and I have a new job. 2 weeks in, I’m way out of my comfort zone trying to pick up on some new technologies I’m barely familiar with, but I’m learning fast. I hope when I look back on this decision a few years from now, I don’t judge it solely on its success or failure (although it would be OK if it turned out to be a success), but can say I made the best decision at the time. And if my decision doesn’t work out, at least it’s not a lose and go home situation like the NCAA playoffs.