I don't care what your favorite sport is, if you have any interest in sport, you can't compare the NCAA men's basketball tournament — aka "March Madness" — to anything else you can find in sports.

I'm soccer-obsessed, and I can't get enough basketball this time of year. I absolutely love the NFL and I'm a PSL owner with the Ravens, but nothing compares to the tournament to decide the national championship in basketball.


I worked in the insurance business for 17 years, traveled to some pretty cool places, and made some good money while doing it. Looking back on all of those years and all the memories we made together over the years, near the top of my memories was sneaking out of work at lunch on the first Thursday and Friday of March to sneak down to Michael's restaurant in Timonium to watch the Maryland game or any other great matchup that we could find in the ACC tournament.

You can always count on someone in the building running a "Bracketology" poll where you fill out your bracket and are awarded points for every game you guess correctly. The winner generally takes a large percentage of the pool of entrance fees and then maybe a small award to the second- and third-place finishers.

At one point, the only place you could get a copy of the bracket was out of the newspaper and make copies to pass around the office. Now, with things like ESPN's Tournament Challenge and CBS Sports' "March Madness" bracket contests, you can organize your company or friend pool and attract people from all over the world, as long as they have access to the Internet.

One year in my young days in the business world, I was invited to attend a "draft" with a "syndicate" to "purchase" teams that we would follow throughout March Madness. Several friends from my company pitched in together and met at an undisclosed location where we bid on every member of the 64-team tournament. The 15 and 16 seeds were relatively inexpensive to "purchase" but as we got in to the higher rated seeds (the top four in each region — think North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Duke; some things never change) the prices were pretty astronomical.

Even though I was making a good bit of money and had very few responsibilities at the time, I knew I was out of my league.

There are so many ways that you can own a piece of the game that just filling out a bracket from the newspaper just seems so outdated these days. You can now purchase a "block" as you do for a Super Bowl that gives you the chance to win on every game of the tournament, based purely on the final score, regardless of who plays in the game. So you don't even have to be a fan, don't have to watch a single minute of the game, and you can still benefit from a little piece of the action.

Just invest in a box in the pool and at the end of the month someone will pay you for the winnings.

I've had my rough days at the track, so to speak, so I'm not an expert on gambling, nor have I kept up to date on how to stay invested in the game. But when I start looking for information on the upcoming bracket selections, I get inundated with information on how to bet on the game, any number of games, and the creative ways to look at the game itself.

Like the coin toss at the Super Bowl, you can bet on who wins the opening tip; you can pick who makes the first basket or the first 3-pointer; who commits the first foul; who throws up the first air ball; and even pick the spread at the end of the first half.

You can bet on individual games straight up or you can give or take points based on the matchup and the favorite. You can decide whether the two opponents combined can score over or under the number set by the odds makers. You can even combine three or four games into a "parlay" where the payoffs increase as the odds decrease, but when it hits, it's jackpot, baby.

Some betting sites even allow you to bet on from which conferences will the champions come and regionals — known as region future betting — as in, Duke's odds that it will win its region is 4-1 (that's for you, mom). A current favorite is naming the tournament's MVP.

I'm glad I learned my lesson many years ago because I don't know if I could resist all these choices.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote, "In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win."

And in my experience, I'm generally filling someone else's pockets.