What are the odds?

March 21, 2014 

By Bill Filer

In the mid 1970s, an ultra competitive geek started Microsoft, a college gypsy who recycled coke bottles for cash founded Apple, and some absolute genius who believed that there is no reason not to enjoy a sweaty nether region any time of day or night created sauna pants. Can you imagine being a loan officer at a bank looking over the financing request for all three of these businesses? Which one would you have gambled on? All of them were long shots. Bill Gates and Microsoft changed personal computing forever with Windows. Jobs led Apple to be the world leader in innovative, must-have electronic devices. Sadly, sauna pants melted away from our collective consciousness one hot, steamy customer at a time.

Probability and odds were front and center early this week as I filled out my NCAA tournament brackets. You could win a billion dollars for correctly picking every winner, creating the perfect bracket in the Quicken Loans bracket challenge. Do you know how many sauna pants you could buy with a billion dollars? Now, your chances of winning aren’t very good, 1 in 9 Quintillion, to be exact.

Quintillion is an actual thing, like sauna pants, only not as hard to comprehend. It’s 10 to the 18th power. Way past a long shot, those are crazy odds.

For some perspective, your chances of winning the Mega-Millions drawing are 1 in 279 million. Death due to your pajamas catching fire ranks in at a 1 in 31 million chance. Now that I know that fact, I think I’ll be three times less likely to wear pajamas ever again. The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 570,000. Take heart boys, because 1 out of 88,000 of us will date a supermodel in our lifetime. Wearing sauna pants may dramatically alter those odds, however.

Winning the perfect bracket challenge is the long shot of long shots. The tournament being a distraction at work, well, that’s not a long shot at all. According to research done by the firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc., approximately three million employees will spend as much as three hours following the tournament during work hours. That adds up to an estimated $134 million dollars in lost productivity during the first two days of the tournament alone. It’s 3-to-1 some dude in accounting crashes your server at the office live streaming all first round games at once to both his PC and phone.

Filling out brackets, picking winners, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical. No one does it the same. You can use science (not Kansas), gut instinct (not Kansas), the ferocity of the school’s mascot (definitely not Kansas), the shorter distance the schools are from the equator (still not Kansas), or choose your schools alphabetically by state, then city (again, not Kansas). Certainly, you can always wish for the moon and stars (not Mizzou), or use hot headed emotion (still not Mizzou), but you probably can’t win if you choose a school that’s not actually in the NCAA tournament even though it’s your alma mater, and they really should be, and it’s almost a national embarrassment (ahem, I’m looking at you Mizzou).

If I win the bracket challenge, and since there’s a 1 in 348,000 chance that my wife actually reads this column, for the record, I’m buying a supermodel for myself and sauna pants for everyone else. May the sauna pants be ever in your favor.

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