As much as we here at Deadspin like to poke fun at sportswriters and political hot-take artists, the truth is that business journalists may be the lowliest scum of all. We’re all horrified by Darren Rovell, and yet there’s only ONE of him in sports. Really, that man is just a business reporter in spirit, crossing over into sports from a dark, soul-sucking, alternate journalistic dimension. In that suited lizard’s home universe, there are joints like Fortune and Forbes that are staffed with nothing but his ilk: sociopathic brand worshippers who wax poetic any time a CEO efficiently lays off 50,000 workers.
This brings us to Chicago Tribune columnist and dutiful timesheet monitor Robert Reed, who decided to dabble in sports takery this week and laid down this masterpiece of humorless chiding. Let’s grab our pre-approved, company-issue utensils and dig into this:
Workplace betting pools, which flourish during college basketball’s March Madness competition and are perceived as a harmless way of boosting employee morale, should be dumped on the ash heap of business history.
And what a long, illustrious history that is. Repressed workers being machine-gunned and bombed, savaged resources, all those terrible Chevy ads. We cannot have something as crass and undignified as SMALL WAGERS tarnishing such a history.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of other collective on-the-job gambling campaigns, including employees pitching in to buy lottery tickets, running and betting on fantasy sports leagues or purchasing weekly football game squares, including the Super Bowl.
God, what a killjoy.
Go ahead, say it: “Cripes, what a killjoy.”
I JUST SAID THAT!
Admonishment duly accepted.
Hmm. Yes. Indeed. Your objection as been noted for the record. [Opens fancy Moleskine notebook with TRONC logo embossed on the cover, makes note.]
To me, workplace wagering is not all fun and games.
But you know what is all fun and games? Competitive spending reports. Now that’s the kind of good, clean merriment you WON’T find in a bracket.
Let’s begin with employee productivity and March Madness, during which this year an estimated $10 billion will be wagered on the national tournament, according to the American Gaming Association in Washington, D.C. Along with the betting, it’s expected that millions of workers will allocate lots of on-the-job time and resources toward making their NCAA picks, building brackets and then tracking games on TV or online.
That productivity thing is horseshit. Every year, there are reporters who happily do propaganda work for the NCAA by going on about the supposed billions of dollars in productivity lost to the tournament, and it’s based on nothing but clumsy guesswork. It takes all of two minutes to fill out a bracket, and if I’m not filling out that bracket, I’m certainly not filling the void with actual WORK. I’m bouncing a tennis ball off the wall or going to take a leisurely dump. And I’m watching those games whether I have money on them or not because I DO NOT WANT TO WORK.
Up to $2.1 billion in lost wages…
Again, garbage stat.
…money paid for work not performed…
THE POOR CORPORATIONS! PEOPLE ARE STEALING FROM THEM! Good thing they don’t have impossibly huge tax breaks to help offset supporting such layabouts.
…and lost worker productivity will be linked to the NCAA tournament, according to Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which tracks workplace trends.
I’m dead. Challenger, Gray & fucking Christmas. Are we sure this isn’t the evil law firm in a Grisham book? Just for fun, I did a quick tour of the outplacement service industry, which corporations use to service laid-off employees, and found this:
During a practice lunch interview, a coach chided her for ordering cranberry juice, saying it could be interpreted as a sign of a urinary-tract infection, she recalls.
They sound about as fun as Mr. Reed here. We move on:
Lost productivity likely translates into missing deadlines, delaying timely decisions and generally slowing down the wheels of commerce until the tournament winds down.
And once the tournament—which includes many, many weekend games—ends? MAXIMUM WORKER EFFICIENCY. Every time March Madness ends, there’s a new flying car. That’s a fact.
This is the equivalent to recesses brought on by natural disasters, except it is self-imposed.
OH MY FUCKING GOD, ARE YOU SHITTING ME? A fucking earthquake levels your town and it’s equivalent to me hitting the boss button? “When you fill out those brackets, what you are really doing is setting off a volcano … OF LOST REVENUE.” I can’t even imagine what the work environment is like at Tronc, which apparently is still trying to make the Tronc name work, if it’s produced this sort of being. I bet they have manacles in the conference room.
These slow periods are most pronounced during the NCAA tournament, which occurs over weeks with daytime games. But I’d contend that similar, albeit more limited distractions, play out over the course of college and professional sports seasons and their subsequent championship playoffs.
Well, it’s clear now what has to happen. We’re simply going to have to machine-gun sports.
Plus the FBI frowns on workplace betting rings.
ROBERT: [sees gambling going on, calls FBI] Is this the FBI?
FBI AGENT: [proudly displaying photo of recovered Brady jersey] Why, yes, it is.
ROBERT: I have perhaps the most dangerous case for you yet, sir.
FBI AGENT: I’ll alert the president.
Law enforcement knows office gambling is one of those questionable activities hiding in plain sight but it tends not to deploy limited resources to target company bettors.
BECAUSE IT WOULD BE FUCKING STUPID. Do you want a SWAT team to come storming into Wendy’s headquarters to confiscate Dave’s upset picks? “Folks, I think we prevented a LOT of natural disasters here today.”
Meanwhile, it’s the rage among human resource experts to advocate for companies not banning office pools, for the sake of morale.
“Meanwhile, some HR departments are advocating new-age practices like ‘having fun’ and ‘treating each other like humans’. Not on MY watch!”
To me, that seems like a lot of precious executive time and attention being squandered to monitor an activity that’s going to depress productivity, raise legal issues and maybe open a can of worms regarding worker morale.
Folks, folks, folks—these executives are very busy people! They spend all day composing memos and attending very expensive offsites! We cannot DISTRACT them with such frivolities. Are Friday donuts not distraction enough, I ask you?
When I started working (many years ago) my department formed a fantasy baseball league, which was led by one of the top bosses.
Oh, I bet you loved that.
By choice, I wasn’t part of the group…
…but a small band of folks gathered in a conference room for weeks picking teams, drinking beer and trash-talking their rivals’ player choices.
Oh wow that sounds fucking great! Where do I sign up for that? Sounds like a place where capable folks like me would wanna work!
It didn’t take long for staffers who were not part of the league to grow resentful of what they perceived was an elite group scoring points with the boss.
Well then, to that I say … IN YOUR FACE! [dunks hard] WOOOOOO!!! [flexes] IT’S A COLD WORLD AND YOU AIN’T GOT NO BLANKET!
What’s more, the person holding the cash left the company in midseason, taking the fantasy league proceeds with him and leaving some very irritated folks in his wake.
Oh, well, fuck that guy. Of course you hate the fantasy baseball guy if he literally robbed a dozen other staffers.
Admittedly, that’s not a great morale-booster.
BECAUSE HE STOLE! That’s not how pools and league usually work.
Just to be clear, advocating an end to workplace gambling is not a clarion call for banning betting on a much wider scale. Regulated, legalized gambling, which Illinois has in abundance, has its place in an open society.
This is an amazing part of the take because Reed also argues that pools are bad because they have the potential to make gambling addicts to relapse. And that’s a decent point, except that he then turns around and is like, “Oh, hey, casinos nearby are groovy,” as if they don’t have a galactically larger impact on gambling addiction than throwing a sawbuck into a hat.
In the 1986 film “The Color of Money,” Paul Newman’s character, pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, muses: “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
“Merriam-Webster defines GAMBLING as …”
Anybody who’s even scored on a two-dollar bet knows what he’s talking about.
“But not for me, for I choose to forgo betting and read Hawthorne instead.”
But you shouldn’t be winning money at the same place you rack up your earnings.
Admonishment rejected. Eat shit. I bet Secret Santa at the office makes your butthole go tight.