The Case For NOT Filling Out A Bracket

NCAA Final Four Tournament 2011
by Darren Rovell
Like many of you, there was a time when I filled out five brackets and entered them in five different polls. Might as well give myself as many chances to win, right?

But over the years, I found it harder to watch games that way. Why? Because I had so many different combinations, I forgot who I had to root for. When I checked my brackets and had both, it was just weird. How many games a year do you watch in which you are rooting for both teams?

So three years ago, I did something crazy. I didn’t fill out a bracket. That’s right. No chances to win. But here’s the point, no chances to lose either.

And guess what? I absolutely loved it. You see, instead of getting heartburn over picking the wrong #12 to be a #5, I was just enjoying the games. Instead of some outcome ruining my dinner, I could just marvel about the genius of the buzzer beater.

If filling out a bracket was really about how much you know, trust me, I’d invest serious money and multiple brackets in office pools. But it’s not. Like most forms of gambling, it’s a game of luck, not skill. It’s just disguised more as skill due to all the information we’re given before we make our picks.

So after two years of succumbing to peer pressure and filling out a bracket, I’m going back to making no picks. Try it, you won’t believe how much more you’ll enjoy the games.

Update: It turns out there is data on my side. Stephen M. Nowlis, the August A. Busch, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the Olin Business School at the University of Washington is co-author of a paper called “The Effect on Making A Prediction About the Outcome of Consumption Experience on the Enjoyment of That Experience.” The paper, published in the Journal of Consumer Experience in 2008 showed that consumers who make predictions about uncertain events experience less joy while watching those events as compared to those who don’t make any predictions. “We thought the opposite would be true,” Nowlis said, in a news release. “We explain our results in terms of anticipated regret. In fact, removing the source of anticipated regret eliminates the negative effect on the prediction of enjoyment.” So you just have to be right? Nope. Nowlis said that those who were right were no more happy about watching the game than those who were wrong.


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