DETROIT - APRIL 06: The floor at center court after the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Michigan State Spartans 89-72 during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
March Madness means that guy came around the office handing out sheets of paper and browbeating you into forking over the $10 you had earmarked for a five-dollar footlong and afternoon coffee.
Now, after procrastinating for three days, the deadline is fast approaching -- the bracket has to be filled out by the time the games tipoff at 12 p.m. ET.
He'll be around before lunch to pick up the bracket, so be ready. Here is what you need to know:
Knowledge is a killer: There are people on sports radio who call themselves "bracketologists." This is stupid even by sports radio standards. They may watch a lot of games, but none of them has ever won an office March Madness pool. The real winners always arrive at their picks by methods that would horrify and frustrate sports fans.
Intimidate others around you: Talk about how you've been "swept along" by Murray State's "magical" 30-4 season. Ask someone who the Colonials play in the first round. When you get a quizzical look, muster up some exasperation and say, "You know, Robert Morris. Oh, what's the use?" The buzz around the office will soon be that you're the favorite. It's not much, but being smug for a couple of days can be rewarding.
Pick top seeds, with a twist: You won't win by simply going through and picking the highest-seeded team to win every time. And even if you do, people will say, "Oh, she just picked according to chalk." (That's the term those sports radio guys use. Try to work it in). Instead, find a "dark horse team" and pick them to go all the way. Then, pick all three other brackets according to seed.
Choosing your winner: Do not get crazy. If you've never heard of the school, it isn't going to win. Avoid schools with "agricultural" in their name. Schools with compass directions in them are always bad unless it is part of their state's name. West Virginia is fine. East Tennessee State is ridiculous. Your best bet is a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
Show and tell: Since you've convinced your co-workers that you're some sort of guru, they will be clamoring for your approval. Humor them. Examine their sheets as they stare at you, trying to read your expressions. If you wear glasses, lower them to the tip of your nose or take them off and chew on the earhook. Finally, hand them back their sheet and dismiss whoever they picked to win by saying you "don't like the semifinal matchup." Refuse to elaborate.
Monitoring the tournament: That guy will appear in your sector every morning, posting an update somewhere prominent. Do not be caught looking at this! Keep track from afar. If you're winning, you'll look extra cool by not gathering around the update. If you're losing, it will appear that you don't care. But getting all Pavlovian and running over is a big, big fail.
If you win: Be obnoxious. You earned it. Tell people you're donating your winnings to charity. Do not let your spouse find out about your windfall. And best of all, consider yourself lucky. You will never win this thing again. So next year, when that guy comes around, tell him no thanks, you're going to "give someone else a chance."