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  March 9, 2012
Madness of March...


"The race is not always to the swift nor the contest to the strong...but I always bet that way" ~ Damon Runyon
"Johnson passes the ball to Wilson at the top of the key...Wilson dribbles around a screen but is double teamed...he passes the ball to Robinson...3 seconds...2...1...he shoots...HE SCORES!!!"...
Ah...March Madness...
A nationwide 344-team basketball tournament  where Cinderella teams abound and dreams are shattered.  No one is left out and every team has a shot at winning it all...

It’s a time when small schools from no-name conferences share the same stage with the powerhouse giants of the game. Universities with rich basketball traditions with names like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Ohio State playing together with teams like Belmont, Montana, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State and UNC Ashford.

After the individual conference tournaments are completed, 68 teams will either automatically qualify or be invited as an at-large participant in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. There will be some unknown teams from small schools who will earn a ticket to the tournament by virtue of winning their conference tournament while others will be invited based on their resume of work throughout the season.
The tournament is single-elimination - lose one game...go home - win six games...and be crowned champion.
During a 40-minute game, anything can happen. A good team could get cold and a mediocre team can get hot. Every year, low ranking teams beat high ranking teams.  It’s a forgone conclusion.
There is an interesting maxim in the life insurance industry. Actuaries can very accurately predict how many people will die in any given year...they just can’t specify exactly who...
Every year a few select seemingly inferior teams will somehow find a way to win a game or two that they would ordinarily have little or no chance in winning. They are too small...too slow...and/or untested to compete with the likes of better competition in the tournament.

These Cinderella teams come to the dance looking to wear the glass slipper...
America is captivated by the excitement of the games.

The first round of 32 games (64 teams) is played on a Thursday and Friday in early March. It’s been determined that over 7.5 million people will stream live games over the Internet these first two days...mostly while at work. The lost productivity by American workers, as calculated by the experts, is over $2 billion for these two days.

So what is the obsession with March Madness?

The first answer is the obvious one. The primary interest in such a tournament is in the gambling.

Approximately $75 million dollars will be wagered legally at casinos. Only the Super Bowl and the World Cup rivals the betting pool of the NCAA tournament.  In addition to the money wagered at casinos, tens of millions more will be bet in private office pools where CEOs, managers, assemblers, and secretaries attempt to chose the winners of each round.

The key to winning these pools is selecting those teams who may defy the odds and win games unexpectedly. The task is daunting and is akin to "finding a needle in a haystack".

In 2011, over 100,000 basketball fans participated in the free CBS Sportsline March Madness Challenge. At the end of the tournament, not a single person had correctly selected all the winners.

Just as in life insurance...we know that there will definitely be upsets...we just don’t know who it’ll be.

The second reason we like to watch the NCAA is because we like to root for the underdog. Ever since David slew Goliath, people have a natural tendency to want to pull for the little guy...the guy who is expected to lose...the guy who has to try a little harder...

I believe that the reason for this phenomenon is that, at one time or another, we were David. We were the little guy trying to defeat the giant. We were the guy who needed to work harder to win.

I know people who refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, McDonald’s, large grocery store chains. They would much rather try and support the small local business, the organic farmer, or a neighborhood restaurant.

For their own reasons they want to promote, support and foster entrepreneurial enterprises. They are rooting for David to overcome the odds and succeed.

If the underdog loses...then it’s expected, however if the underdog wins...then it’s legendary.

In 2010, Butler University, a small school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, with a total enrollment of only 4,000 students, overcame all odds by advancing all the way to the tournament finals losing by only two points to perennial powerhouse, Duke, in the final game.

This was an incredible feat...

...only to be bettered the following year, when the same Butler University, a number 8 seed, once again advanced to the tournament finals, this time losing to the University of Connecticut.

Butler Bulldogs epitomize the scrappy underdog... playing above their heads against more formidable competition...winning against all odds.

Every day there are people, companies and organizations from all over the world who find a way to overcome adversity.  They find a way to survive.  They never stop trying.  They persevere.  They find a way to win.

I always root for the underdog...because maybe in the end...we are all underdogs in one way or another...

Thank you for your support as we too try to defy the odds each and every day. 

Jim Kalb

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