Well how is your bracket doing?
That seems to be the primary greeting that I’ve heard over the last two weeks as everyone focuses on March Madness.
I am not immune to this condition, as I have filled out a bracket every year for probably the last ten years.
Of course I have a system to making my picks, I know that there will be some upsets, and I know that by and large the first and second seeds will make it through the first round of competition, and so I will confess that I did select Kansas to win its first game.
I am happy to report that they lost the second, so we are all good.
But beyond these few simple rules my method of team selections for the NCAA Bracket is best defined by the Latin phrase, Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis!.
Now if you are not a fan of Car Talk on NPR those last four words are going to look like the grandmother of all typo’s, but it translates into “Unencumbered by the Thought Process”.
No I don’t put a lot of thought into my picks, I don’t expect to win, I just hope not to embarrass myself in front of my daughter and son-in-law who are true College Basketball Fans.
This year was a little different, with the Quicken Loans Perfect Bracket Challenge.
The lucky entrant who accurately predicted the results of 63 games would win a billion dollars.
Now bear in mind that the March 18th lottery jackpot was $414 million so this perfect bracket challenge could payout 2.42x without the hassle of purchasing a ticket.
Now I can appreciate why some folks would put an inordinate amount of thought into their picks, but let us consider the probabilities of success.
If you treat each game as an independent contest with 1 of two possible outcomes, the probability of predicting the correct outcome for 63 games is one in 9.2 quintillion or 9,200,000,000, 000,000,000.
That is a hard number to fathom, so I have tried to find other examples of rare things that we might have experienced.
Consider the powerball lottery versus a lightning strike.
The odds of winning the powerball lottery are 1 in 195,249,054 while the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 134,906.
So you could expect to be struck by lightning some 1,447 times before you would win the powerball.
Given that I don’t know anybody who has survived more than one encounter with lightning, these seem rather steep odds.
The odds that your son or daughter will clean your car upon request are 1 in 1,000 based on my personal observation.
Odds that they will clean their room, 1 in 2,000.
If they are currying favor, the odds decrease dramatically to say 1 in 20.
Per the national weather service, the probability of rain in St. Louis on any given day in April is about 0.43.
However this increases to a virtual certainty if you have washed your car in the last 24 hours.
Accordingly the probability of transferring road grime from your car to your trousers is 0.15 unless those trousers are light khaki at which time it increases to 0.45.
If perchance the pants are dry-clean only the probability increases to 0.75 but if you are on your way to church, it instantly becomes a certainty at 1.0.
I would not even hazard a guess as to the probability of being stopped for speeding, but I do know it increases exponentially if you were speeding because you were late.
Likewise it increases another order of magnitude if you are late for a meeting with your boss.
The bottom line is that if you are speeding you will get caught so accept that the probability of that outcome will be 1.0
In another week the NCAA Basketball Tournament will culminate with a championship game.
The painted courts will be forgotten for another year, as grass becomes the field of focus for baseball.
Die-hard sports fans can root for the Cardinals as they calculate how many more losses are required to eliminate the Chicago Cubs from post-season play.
John Armstrong is a Vice President with Peoples Bank & Trust Company in Elsberry.