So Much March Madness, So Little Time

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The Ides of March are upon us, which means that office executives are preparing for one of the biggest financial boondoggles of the year.

No, I’m not talking about income tax day.

Rather, thousands of men and women workers around the country this month will contribute millions of dollars to participate in the annual gambling ritual known as the “March Madness” office pool.

Workplace production will drop significantly on the afternoons of March 16 and 17, in particular, as workers gather around office television sets and keep browsers fixed on ESPN.com to see if their top picks survive the first round of the hallowed National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Tournament.

CAGER’S DELIGHT

For hoops fanatics who decide to call in sick those two days, in an effort to see every two-point dunk and three-point swish, DirecTV Inc.’s $59 March Madness subscription satellite package is just what the doctor ordered.

DirecTV subscribers will be able to see up to four games on one screen at one time, while receiving up-to-the-second scores of other live games as part of the company’s new Game Mix interactive feature.

For fans secure enough about their jobs to follow the tournament action on their office computers, College Sports Television and broadcast network CBS will allow users to switch between several on-screen live game feeds as part of a video streaming service, available at www.ncaasports.com. (Presumably you’ll watch some ads along the way.)

New interactive-TV and video Internet technology have created a video nirvana for couch potato television junkies, with more viewing choices and options than a Las Vegas casino buffet. But it begs the question: Can anyone truly watch everything available under the sun and fully enjoy the experience?

I mean, can you fully appreciate the drama, intensity and intrigue of a single-elimination college basketball tournament game if the action only occupies one-fourth of your television screen at any given time?

We “experts” in the television business go nuts for every new technical innovation that provides consumers more choice and content. But do Joe and Karen living in Middle America really want all of this innovation for a simple activity like watching television?

For many, it’ll be easier and more enjoyable to sit down on the couch and tune in to CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage and allow the network to determine which game to watch.

And while I’m at it, how much time can one commit to watching the boob tube? A hard-core sports fan could conceivably spend 12 straight hours sitting in his easy chair watching live action from each of the first two days of the tournament. During that 48-hour period, football widows will have nothing on the suffering wives of March Madness fanatics.

But the unbalanced scale of unbridled content and limited viewing time isn’t just the purview of the NCAA college-basketball tournament.

There are many exciting shows in today’s 200-channel environment that, because of time constraints, I don’t get to see during their regularly scheduled time period. I’m still trying to catch up with the all the weekly episodes from the second season of Sci Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica while keeping abreast of Jack Bauer’s weekly efforts to defy terrorists and bathroom breaks on 24.

Of course, I could watch some of the episodes on my video iPod — but it almost takes an engineering degree to convert non-iTunes-licensed shows to a video-iPod-ready format.

NO TIME FOR PRIMETIME

I guess I could watch some shows on my digital video recorder on weekends, if I could pull my tween-age daughter away from the thousandth replay of Disney Channel’s original movie High School Musical. Even with that, between paying bills and other household chores, there’s only so much time available to watch TV.

I mean really, how many waking hours can one devote to the all-mighty boob tube? If you come up with an answer to any and all of these questions call me at the office — but not on March 16 or March 17.

I already feel a cold coming on.

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