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And one for the Gators

One shining moment for those with money on it.Florida- 73, UCLA- 57

Last night my mother was glued to the television to root for a team she never rooted for in her entire life. She can recite UCLA’s starting lineup by heart, and she wouldn’t be afraid to say Jordan Farmar is one of the best guards in college basketball, and she knew it all season.

The same reason my mom could rival Digger Phelps in basketball knowledge is the same reason I can’t: the March Madness office pool.

Ever since I won my office pool in 2002, I have picked myself out of the competition after the second round – which is hard to do.

As a result, I have lost interest in the NCAA Tournament after the second round for the last four years – something hard for me to admit, considering I’m supposed to be a “sports nut.”

But as George Mason was making its improbable run, I couldn’t care less. As Glen “Big Baby” Davis was nailing clutch shots, I was about as excited as an Indianapolis-ite attending a free John Mellencamp concert.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but what was once my favorite sporting event no longer intrigues me. Four years ago, winning the pool confused me into thinking I knew everything about college basketball.

What I realize now is I got lucky, and a big reason why I loved March Madness so much was because of the pool.

And the money.

According to an Associated Press article, an “estimated $2.5 billion is reportedly bet on the NCAA Tournament, with only $80 million bet legally in Nevada sports books,” so apparently, I’m not alone.

For me, it was $10, and to have my bracket still intact at the end was one of the most exciting moments of my life. To top it off, I even went to the Indiana-Maryland game in Atlanta.

But for every other pool, my $10 went to someone else, and I don’t even remember what state I was in during each national championship.

The same reason I wish I didn’t have to tune in is the same reason many people don’t. The same reason the first two-day ratings are higher than the last two days of the tournament.

People lose, then people stop caring.

It’s the “invisible hand” holding the remote control.

It’s why ESPN televises the World Series of Poker, and why people tune in to watch a show where contestants spin a wheel and play a glorified game of hangman.

As much as I was disinterested in the national championship, I had to watch it. I forced myself to watch despite having no gambling interest in the game.

I should have known the odds were against me.

For starters, I had to watch it on a grainy Phillips Magnavox television that didn’t exactly improve the appearance of Gators center Joakim Noah.

Then Florida dominated the Bruins the entire game, not allowing my interest to pique at any moment. Also, anytime I focused on the game, a commercial or the resident Yankees fan in the office would change the channel and deter that focus.

It won’t be long before I hear from every Gator fan I’ve ever met – and ones I haven’t – that their team won.

If this game were a poker hand, I would have folded it. If it were a vowel, I wouldn’t have bought it. But I had to watch it along with a precious few people, and I know why those people were watching – the same reason Hank Azaria’s character in Quiz Show said people were watching the fixed game show: “The audience didn’t tune in to watch some amazing display of intellectual ability. They just wanted to watch the money.”