‘I don’t even know who has a printer’ — NCAA office pools have changed

I’m not gonna say it’s been a long time since I played an office pool for the NCAA basketball tournament, but it was within a few years of CBS’s Brent Musburger’s first use of the term March Madness in 1982.

Apparently a lot has changed since then. An email just circulated at WTOP, exhorting coworkers to make their choices before the first games on Friday.

I’m almost positive the last brackets I played were not produced on a mimeograph machine — after all, I’m clearly in the laser printer generation.

I asked the newly appointed administrator of WTOP’s office pool, sportscaster Chris Cichon, whether he’s handed out the brackets for coworkers to fill out and return.

“Neal, I don’t even know who has a printer these days,” Cichon said. “It’s all virtual now — it’s all done on one of the hosting sites: CBS, Yahoo, or ESPN, as well.”

Tactfully, Cichon humored me.

“Yeah, it used to be fun where you would handwrite it, and hand it to someone,” Cichon said. “But it’s pretty much gone completely virtual — at least in my millennial generation.”


My recollections include telling the organizer of the office pool that I’d pay for my entry after going to the ATM.

Cichon can identify: “Yeah, there are a number of times in contests I’ve run where I’ve had to send a Venmo request, once or twice.”

Apparently, cash in hand doesn’t cut it anymore in office pools.

“If you want to get in, you’re sending the money, virtual,” Cichon said. “Plus, that’s how you keep a trail of what comes in.” He assures me PayPal is also accepted.

What hasn’t changed is the thrill of the bet, Cichon said.

“We compete to see who is going to have the best bracket and the most points per round,” Cichon said. “The points increase per round, until you get to the Final Four, and that’s really where the good brackets separate and become the winning brackets.”

I nod, during the Zoom call, pretending to understand.

“If you’re like me, you love the thrill of winning, and losing is part of it, too,” he said. “Especially since last year’s NCAA was cancelled” due to the pandemic.

Come Friday, apparently, a lot of people will be preoccupied, as March Madness gets into full swing. I’ll probably be taking a nap.

Cichon perhaps realizes he’s found a sucker. “You want to get action?”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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