Tourney time begets a different kind of 'Madness'

 This morning, between news updates about the crisis in Crimea and the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian airliner, I heard a voice from my past talking about matters of seemingly greater importance to most Americans.

March Madness.
Particularly as it applies to a possible billion-dollar payday for some lucky — very lucky — soul out there with a bracket and pencil (with eraser) in hand.
As even the most casual bettor knows by now, Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans have teamed to sponsor a contest that promises a cool $1 billion for the basketball expert who picks the winner in all 67 games in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The odds, of course, are beyond astronomical for someone actually doing that, approaching 9.223 quintillion to 1.
But still, wouldn’t it be nice to see Buffett and Quicken write such a check, undoubtedly from their petty cash account.
Pete  Tiernan  of  Saline,     the brains behind, would be among those smiling at such a thought. He has, after all, become a much-sought-after expert among those interested in winning their office pool. He has worked with the likes of ESPN and now is a contributor, offering a wealth of statistical tips on how best to outfox even the most seasoned prognosticators.
I first met Tiernan more than a decade ago while writing a March Madness type feature that was designed to take our minds of the impending war in Iraq, where a Mideast despot reigned supreme. At the time, it was a part-time gig for Tiernan, a married father of three who was a marketing exec by day and a NCAA tourney statistical guru at heart.
The seemingly innocent goal of winning his office pool provided the impetus in 1991 for Tiernan to begin compiling a “simple database on the tournament results.” Over the years, he’s added increasing statistical complexity to the database, offering answers to a variety of bizarre questions that are designed to separate the “champs from the chaff.” Answers to such profound questions as:
“How do sixth- through 11th-seeded Big Ten teams with coaches that have been to the tournament before and who get less than 40 percent of their scoring from guards perform when they’re playing more than 100 miles from their campus . . . in the second round . . . against ACC teams with at least two seniors in their starting lineup?”
Ah, yes, just the question you have been mulling for months but were much too timid to ask.
It’s the kind of query that has made March Madness a multi-billion-dollar sports phenomenon with various cottage industries springing up all around it, providing wings to such “bracketologists” as Tiernan.
“What other sport kicks off its championship event by making the premier teams play little-known long-shots,” Tiernan asked at the time. “It’s like the Yankees starting their World Series run by taking on the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League.
“There’s only one thing sweeter than watching some no-name pipsqueak school knock off a fat and happy favorite — and that’s being the only person in your office pool to predict the upset,” he said with an ear-to-ear smile.
Tiernan, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is a native of Pittsburgh although he spent his formative years in Bloomfield Hills as well as Connecticut. His father, Tom, played basketball at the U-M in the late ‘40s.
“My original idea also involved writing a book on the subject,” Tiernan said. “Back then, I also pitched the column idea to a number of newspapers. The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch picked up some of the columns.”
According to Tiernan, his family hasn’t cut him any slack with his growing fame. In fact, they view his NCAA tourney fixation as a “good way to keep me busy in the attic.” 
Wonder what they will think if he aces the billion-dollar bracket?


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »